An increasing trend of urbanisation, disassociation of educated youth, lack of opportunities and outdated polices are the foremost challenges faced by the agriculture sector, said agricultural experts while talking to The Express Tribune. Growth in this crucial sector of the economy has been hurt due to these factors, they said.
The agricultural sector could grow at a rapid pace if the farming community is properly facilitated, they added.
“The government’s focal point should be production; farmers must increase per acre average yield, but increasing prices of electricity, pesticides, seeds, fuel and other inputs are retarding growth in this sector,” said Farooq Ahmad, a progressive farmer from Faisalabad.
Ahmad added that the country is facing major challenges as available land for agriculture is continuously declining with businessmen, sensing opportunity, are converting arable land to residential colonies, plazas and industrial estates. “If farmers are compensated handsomely for agricultural activities, they will be discouraged from resorting to such means,” he added.
“Small farmers are no longer able to meet costs of production,” said Tauqeer Ali, a small farmer in Faisalabad. “They are selling their land to developers due to high input costs and decline in per acre yields,” he added.
“Hundreds of residential colonies are being built on agriculture land,” said Shabir Meer, a developer in Faisalabad. “During the Pervaiz Musharraf’s governmet, the property business was at a peak and developers had hoped the trend would continue during the PPP’s government, but it has slowed.”
Due to the redistribution of land among family members, the size of land holdings is also falling.
“A more significant challenge is the high rate of urbanisation in the country. The trend is leading not only to reduction in agricultural land around urban areas, but also in creating more demand for food – which indicates food insecurity rising in the coming decade,” said Arshad Mahmood, an agricultural expert. “The youth should be involved in farming activities. They must take it up as a career. They must start knowledge-intensive activities in farming,” he added.
He added that the youth already attached in this occupation is, unfortunately, mostly illiterate and lacking knowledge of modern technology in the agriculture sector. “If young educated persons become a part of this sector, then agriculture could prosper. There should be additional job opportunities and awareness programs regarding this.”
“Global agricultural trade is the mechanism of prosperity in the agriculture sector and the national economy. If the government introduces fair polices regarding export of agricultural products, farmers can get excellent rates for their products from international markets, while the government can also earn more foreign exchange. Trade diversification is the need of the hour,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 1st, 2012.
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