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AGRICULTURE: A NEGLECTED LIFELINE OF NATIONAL ECONOMY

  • MUHAMMAD NAEEM BAIG
  • July, 2018
  • 453
  • Economy

The latest Economic survey of Pakistan posts a hopeful picture of Pakistan's agri sector. Agriculture employs 42.3 percent of the labour force and providing raw material  for several value-added sectors

We are not reluctant to trumpet that agriculture is lifeline of our national economy but only a few understand its meaning in our country. At a time when the country is encircled by several man-made and natural disasters, agriculture is the only pillar to support the nation and its economy. Keeping in view the importance of agri sector, last year, President Mamnoon Hussain was true to lay emphasis upon the need for adoption of a multidimensional approach for investing in food security and uplifting the rural livelihoods to control the migration patterns in the rural areas last month.  He said in a message on the occasion of World Food Day, "I am confident that food security will continue to be one of the priority areas for our future public and private investments to achieve self-sufficiency and rural development." The president did let the people know that the country Pakistan has made significant progress in food production over the last seventy years as it has witnessed a considerable increase in the production of wheat and rice. Similarly, the former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi seconded the president's opinion by saying that the government and the private sector needed to join hands for formulation of a robust policy for overcoming the existing challenges and to strengthen and promote the agriculture sector.

Here a question arises whether we should exploit the opportunities in agri sector alone or should invite the foreign investors. Pakistan offers huge opportunities to foreign investors in the agriculture sector that include crops, seeds, livestock, farming, and processing. Foreign investors could generate handsome profits by investing in Pakistan and export their products to Iran, Afghanistan, Middle East, Central Asia, EU, US and many other countries. Is it in the interest of Pakistan and Pakistanis? The answer is simple and understandable. If foreign investment does not hurt the interests of Pakistanis, it is welcome; otherwise more harmful than any other deal struck to date. The previous record shows that foreign people invest to serve their own interest. Prior to inking the deal, Pakistani authorities should safeguard national interests.

It is said that the foreign investment is in the best interest of the nation. Many Chinese entrepreneurs have started efforts to set up agriculture farms and factories in Pakistan. For the investment opportunities in Pakistan, we need to formulate supportive rules and regulations, increase government's interest in foreign investment and provide assistance to investors. It is on the air that Chinese are all set to establish silk factory in Pakistan which will create thousands of jobs and it would make our country self- sufficient. 

To attract foreign investment, Pakistani government is reportedly quick to invest in water storage and distribution, improving regulation of seed markets, offering incentives to encourage private investment in this critical sector and taking steps to reduce the cost of production for the farmers. Pakistan's agricultural sector has enormous potential and we are ready to tap this potential along with foreign investors which will boost overall economic growth, enhance food security and significantly improve the welfare of the poor.

Pakistan is a major producer of agri outputs. The most important crops include wheat, sugarcane, cotton, and rice, which together account for more than 75% of the value of total crop output. Pakistan's largest food crop is wheat. The Food and Agriculture Organization (United Nations) informed that in the mid of last decade  the country produced 21,591,400 metric tons of wheat, more than all of Africa (20,304,585 metric tons) and nearly as much as all of South America (24,557,784 metric tons). The country had harvested more than 25 to 23 million tons of wheat in 2012. Pakistan has also cut the use of dangerous pesticides dramatically. The importance of agriculture in Pakistan can be estimated from the fact that the country is one of the world's largest producers and suppliers of food and crops such as Chickpea (3rd),Apricot (6th) ,Cotton (4th), Milk (5th), Date Palm (5th), Sugarcane (5th), Onion (7th), Kinnow, mandarin oranges, clementine (6th), Mango (4th), Wheat (7th), and Rice (4th). Furthermore, Pakistan is ranked eighth globally in farm output.

Climate change is a threat to agriculture production. Pakistan is ranked among top 10 most vulnerable countries to climate change calamities. It has suffered 133 climate change-induced disasters from year 1996 to 2015, which caused economic...

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