Minister suggests reforms to boost farm yield

Tarin says recommendations of EAC will be made a part of upcoming budget

Our Correspondent June 06, 2021


Food Security Minister Syed Fakhar Imam has suggested a raft of interventions such as seed sector reform, digital subsidiary management, water efficiency, farmers’ access to credit and restructuring research institutions to improve productivity and bridge the yield gap.

Imam gave a detailed presentation on agriculture to the Economic Advisory Council (EAC) meeting chaired by Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin. He expressed his joy that the agriculture sector, which had been neglected by successive previous governments, had come under the focus.

“There is nothing better than self-sufficiency in food security,” the minister told the meeting. “Agriculture has been off the table for 22 years, but I’m so happy that agriculture is back in focus because of the agriculture transformation plan,” he added.

The EAC held the follow-up session. The first session of the second EAC meeting was held earlier this week. During the four-hour-long session, four sub-groups on agriculture, China-Pakistan economic corridor (CPEC), social protection and information technology, gave detailed presentations.

Presenting the subgroup presentation on agriculture Imam dilated on the current functioning of the agriculture and food security sector and ways forward for future. He also presented an in-depth analysis of the farm sector.

The minister suggested interventions to bridge the yield gap, including seed sector reform, digital subsidiary management, water efficiency, farmers’ access to credit, revamping extension services, post-harvest storage and restructuring research institutions.

He also called for parallel interventions such as agro-ecological zoning, international cooperation, cluster fruit and vegetable farming, storages and food processing. He pointed out that collaboration with China as part of a value chain and breeding of seed varieties had been planned.

The minister said that with the proposed interventions wheat was expected to increase by 41%, rice by 40%, cotton by 65%, maize by 40% and sugarcane by 22%. The yield of other crops, the minister added, was expected to increase by 30%.

The minister particularly emphasised the need for interventions in “cotton crop [sector] and it’s revival. He stressed that cotton could have the impact on the gross domestic product (GDP) growth more than the other crops.

During the EAC meeting, Industries Minister Khusro Bakhtiyar, called for introducing the “Agricultural Transformation Plan” which had been prepared by the government after extensive discussion with the relevant stakeholders.

Tarin assured that the proposed plan would be considered and recommendations would be made a part of the upcoming budget. “The fundamental objective of the EAC is to make concrete short-, medium- and long-term strategies for growth and transformation of all sectors,” he said.

During the second session of the second meeting of EAC, which continued for four hours, four sub-groups -- on Food Security, Agriculture, China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Social Protection and Information Technology & Digitalisation – gave their detailed presentation.

CPEC Authority Chairman Lt-Gen (retd) Asim Saleem Baja also gave presentations on behalf of the CPEC subgroup. He briefed the meeting that the projects under CPEC “are being completed according to our commitment”.

Gen (retd) Bajwa also discussed the possibilities of investment in the special economic zones in collaboration with the regional development partners in a structured manner through short-, medium- and long-term strategies.

Dr Sania Nishtar briefed the meeting on the proposed plan of interventions by Ehsaas in the next year and submitted proposals for budgetary allocations. The chair praised the SAPM for evolving a comprehensive programme for social protection and poverty alleviation.

The IT subgroup discussed their proposals to explore the potential of the sector and create an enabling environment for generating exportable surplus. Tarin affirmed his support for the sector by making policy changes according to its needs.

The meeting was also attended Economic Affairs Minister Omar Ayub Khan, prime minister’s advisers Razak Dawood and Dr Ishrat Hussain, SAPMs Tabish Gauhar, and Dr Waqar Masood, State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Governor Dr Reza Baqir, Abid Suleri, M Ali Tabba, Dr Rashid Amjad, Sultan Allana, Syed Salim Raza and private members.