The government should focus on supporting small and marginalised farmers and promote small-scale innovative technologies to enhance growth in the agriculture sector, said Pakistan Biotechnology Information Centre (PABIC) Director Dr Kauser Malik.
During a webinar titled “Covid-19, an opportunity to reform the agriculture system of Pakistan”, Malik said that crop biotechnology had the potential to help the agriculture sector flourish, but a lot of strategic planning was needed for streamlining the flow of biotechnology products in the country.
“The government should play a leading role to ensure food security and control prices,” he suggested, adding that it should establish special industrial zones in all farm districts, equipped with cold storages, food processing units connected with retail chains and export industries.
“Improving water management is the key as four major crops (rice, wheat, sugarcane and cotton) consume 80% of water but contribute only 5% to the gross domestic product (GDP).” Malik emphasised that improving the nexus among agriculture, education, training, research and technology was the need of the hour.
Speaking on the occasion, Comstech Coordinator-General Professor Dr Iqbal Choudhary said that during the pandemic, science had demonstrated the true spirit of researchers to find solutions under the limited national capacity.
Shedding light on the challenges, CropLife Asia Executive Director Dr Sianghee Tan said that the global pandemic had wreaked havoc on food supply systems in Pakistan and across Asia.
“Existing issues across the food value chain have been exposed and exacerbated by Covid-19, while new ones have been created as well,” he lamented. Tan stressed, “Our responsibility as stakeholders is to ensure the men and women, who drive food security across the region, are supported to do just that.”
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This included “providing policies that enable and empower our farmers to produce safe and nutritious food on less land,” he added.
Discussing the importance of proper storage facilities, Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC) former chairman Dr Yusuf Zafar talked about the wake-up call to modernise grain storage and reporting systems in Pakistan.
He emphasised that the way forward was to revisit the procurement policies, incentivise the private sector for grain storage and attract foreign investment to develop a modern storage and handling system.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 10h, 2021.