Pakistan needs to upgrade the agriculture sector through the use of modern technology, said Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhar Imam.
Chairing a conference on “Food Security vis-a-vis Sustainable Agriculture in Pakistan: Policy Outcomes and Prospects” on Wednesday, he said “We can apply different methodologies to smaller areas that can be replicated on a larger scale upon success to multiply their benefits for the people.”
The minister said that around 38% of the population was employed in the agriculture sector, “which increases the significance of this sector”.
“Currently, we are using one-fourth of our geographical land for cultivation of five major crops, which are still dominated by wheat,” he said.
Pakistan had one of the most extensive irrigation systems in the world, he said, adding: “We have youth who are committed to taking the agriculture sector to new heights”.
He informed the conference participants that cotton contributed to around 60% of total exports from Pakistan and 70% of the edible oil came from cotton.
Pakistan had record production of many crops this year and by next year more people would invest in the sector, he added.
Speaking on the occasion, Punjab Minister for Agriculture Syed Hussain Jahania Gardezi said that scientists and philosophers had been warning about the threats related to food, agricultural security and climate change.
“Food security has always remained a threat to mankind,” he said, adding that the dimensions of the threat, however, had changed due to other factors particularly climate change.
“Pakistan is the 10th largest country in the production of agricultural commodities, at the same time we are the sixth largest country by population,” he said. “The world food growth is not more than 1.5%.”
“Therefore, the policymakers must come up with innovative ideas to bridge this gap,” he added.
Former federal secretary of information and broadcasting Ashfaq Ahmed Gondal stated that food security was directly related to agriculture, which was the backbone of Pakistan.
“The sector accounts for 19% of GDP and agri-based exports comprise 80% of Pakistan’s total exports,” he added.
Elaborating on the food security issue, Hanns Seidel Foundation Pakistan Resident Representative Steffen Kudella said “food security means everyone has access to sufficient and safe food even in times of crisis.”
Citing a recent study, he said that food security was a serious challenge globally, “because many households suffer from food insecurity”. “This becomes particularly serious for children.”
Even though Pakistan already had a comparatively strong food production sector, its agricultural potential was much higher, he said.
He stated that the conference intended to connect relevant stakeholders, “from the farmer in the field to the highest-level of policymakers”.
MNS University of Agriculture Vice Chancellor Asif Ali stated that non-traditional threats had been rising in this century. “The road to progress in terms of food security has been bumpy but improvements have been tremendous,” he said.
Pakistan should have production diversity and environmental sustainability, he said, adding that people should be educated about eating habits and achieving balance in food consumption.
“Traditional and non-traditional threats are interconnected. One threat destabilises the other and changing climate is the biggest challenge to food security,” he said.
Barani Water Conservation Project Team Leader Usman Mustafa said that investing in the agriculture sector could address hunger and malnutrition issues as well as other challenges including poverty, water and energy shortage, climate change, unsustainable production and consumption.
The conference was jointly organised by the Centre for Global and Strategic Studies, Hanns Seidel Foundation Pakistan and MNS University of Agriculture.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 7th, 2021.
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