Farmers of the country can recover lost productivity, estimated at 50% of total production, with the help of large-scale planting of hybrid seeds and modern farming practices and equipment, suggest leading agriculture experts.
Traditional methods of farming cannot change depressed financial conditions of the farmers. Only adoption of modern techniques can make farming a profitable business which could change living standards of farmers, which at present are not significantly different from the colonial era, they say.
Growers are getting approximately 50% less yield per acre when compared with regional countries and productivity is more than 100% lower compared to developed countries. Lower yield leaves the producers uncompetitive in the market, experts point out while talking to The Express Tribune.
The only way to tackle food deficiency is to increase crop production, but high cost of pesticides and black marketing of fertiliser are hampering such efforts.
Pakistan has an agriculture-based economy that contributes 21% to gross domestic product. Eighty per cent of landholders are small farmers having less than five acres of land. They cannot afford modern farming techniques and high cost of inputs.
“Hybrid seeds can increase productivity, rice is a best example. Paddy growers, who use hybrid seeds, are enjoying 60% higher yield compared to traditional and old varieties,” said Akram Elahi, an agriculturalist. The higher yield had made hybrid seeds popular among rice farmers as the genetically modified technology could double productivity of some crops, he said.
However, application of lower than required inputs because of rising prices reduced the production of crops, he added.
“Farmers have scaled back application of inputs, they even sow low-quality seeds and eventually yield drops. Government should encourage them to step up application of inputs in order to improve the output and enhance productivity,” suggested Ajmal Ali, an agricultural expert.
According to him, developed countries entirely rely on hybrid seeds for major crops like maize, canola, sunflower and vegetables, however, Pakistan is planting only 30% of crops with such varieties.
Leading industries including textile, sugar, rice and flour heavily depend on the agriculture sector and a growth in agriculture will save the economy.
Pakistan is already far behind in productivity compared to regional countries including India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Its yield is around 50% lower in various crops.
Farmers argue that hybrid seeds and modern techniques are quite expensive that they cannot afford. They believe that only government’s support can turn the situation and in the absence of state incentives and intervention small farmers cannot raise their living standards.
If the government offers incentives like the way regional states are giving to their farmers, the financial condition of growers in Pakistan could turn better, they say, citing the incentives given to Indian farmers, who enjoy cheap and smooth supply of electricity, pesticides and fertilisers at controlled prices.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 23rd, 2014.
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