The draft national food security policy, seeking a major shift from traditional crops to value-addition in farm produce, is now ready, and a strategy is currently being evolved for the implementation of the policy recommendations.
The policy drafted in January 2013 by the ministry of national food security and research, shuttled between the standing committees of the parliament, the ministry and stakeholders for months. Finally, the document is back to the ministry whose responsibility is to send it to the cabinet for approval.
The much-debated new policy seeks a major change in the agricultural development vision in order to move beyond simply increasing production to a more people-centric, livelihood approach.
The political disclosure on agriculture has so far been dominated by how to increase production of a few strategically important crops — mainly wheat, rice, sugarcane and cotton. Relatively, little attention has been given to other crops, livestock and poultry.
According to Dr Iftikhar Ahmed, Chairman of Pakistan Agricultural Research Council, provincial agricultural departments, provincial research bidies, agricultural universities, farmers’ community, agro-based industry and NGO’s have been taken on board to finalise the policy. Advices were also sought from the Food and Agricultural Organisation and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development.
A higher growth rate will come mainly from middle to large farmers who have the resources for investment and the risk-bearing capacity to diversify and innovate
Since agriculture is the backbone of the economy, it was felt that merely focusing on traditional crops would not serve; a shift is needed to achieve value-added growth for both domestic and export markets, he said.
According to the planning commission, the agriculture sector needs to grow at 5pc for reducing poverty and reaching the GDP growth target of 7-8pc. A higher growth rate will come mainly from middle to large farmers who have the resources for investment and the risk-bearing capacity to diversify and innovate.
However, pattern of agricultural growth should also take into account the needs of the rural poor including small farmers, nomadic and transhumant and the landless. These groups, which have been ignored in the past, can also make a significant contribution to growth, and share benefit of improved living conditions in rural areas.
Poverty, food security and food safety remain major issues. Some 30pc of the population is undernourished.
Pakistan also needs to continue to build resilience of the agriculture sector. Climate change projections indicate increased water from higher rainfall, and from runoff from glaciers and snow melt. However, this will be accompanied by greater variability in weather with more frequent extreme events such as flood and drought. The agriculture sector needs mechanisms to cope and adapt to climate change.
Merely focusing on traditional crops would not serve; a shift is needed to achieve value-added growth for both domestic and export markets — Dr Iftikhar Ahmed, Chairman of the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council
Agriculture needs rural electrification programme via alternative source of energy to overcome the energy crisis. The new policy suggests subsidies for rural households, including elimination of duties on the import of solar equipment.
More than 8m rural small and landless farmers raise livestock, making it an ideal sector for attacking rural poverty. Currently, the public support system for livestock is centered around health services with very limited focus on alternate feeding modes, fodder preservation and genetic improvement.
Since more than 90pc of milk is produced by small holders, thinly spread over the countryside, its collection and processing faces a major challenge. The new policy seeks to address these critical issues.It also seeks to resolve issues facing production of red meat on a sustainable and cost effective basis.
The policy advocates state interventions for the development of slaughter houses and butcheries in the private sector to add value; create linkages among the meat producers and processors; and improve capacity of stakeholders for meat production and processing.
Another element of the new policy is to promote fisheries by identifying new solutions that enhance efficiency and promote regional and global integration. The federal government, in collaboration with provincial governments, will introduce coastal aquaculture of shrimp and fish, including large scale cage culture, and promote stocking with appropriate species of reservoirs, lakes and rivers.
Pakistan can grow most sub-tropical and temperate fruits and vegetables which have large regional export potential as well as rapidly rising domestic demand. A network of improved nurseries will be established with particular help provided in the selection of new crops.
The policy also seeks to halt degradation and improve rangelands which are a major source of meat production particularly of sheep and goat. Rangeland improvement will require targeting and addressing the needs of nomads and transhumant, who are often not well catered by provincial livestock services. Measures will be taken to improve the genetic quality of the stock.
Some 40pc of rainfall in non-canal areas is lost to run-off. Improved water harvesting, along with water conservation and water spreading can have a major impact on production and incomes. The policy aims to introduce the best international practices, including the combination of water management techniques with appropriate on-farm practices such as conservation agriculture.
Published in Dawn, Economic & Business, January 19th , 2015