ISLAMABAD: In the wake of negative agricultural growth recorded during the outgoing fiscal year, the government is set to announce a comprehensive package of measures in the FY17 budget on Friday to give the sector a boost, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said on Thursday.

According to the Pakistan Economic Survey 2015-16, the performance of the agriculture sector, which accounts for 21 per cent of the economy, remained dismal as its growth fell 0.19pc, with the growth of crops dropping by 6.25pc.

The production of cotton, rice and maize decreased by 27.8pc, 2.7pc and 0.3pc, respectively, whereas sugar production increased by 4.2pc. Wheat production is expected to rise marginally to reach 25.48 million tonnes.

“We can’t afford a setback to the agriculture sector and will take collective measures. It’s a very big challenge for us,” Mr Dar told a press conference while unveiling the economic survey. He blamed low global commodity and oil prices for Pakistan’s negative agricultural growth.

The finance minister said that the decline in cotton production alone reduced half a percentage point from the gross domestic product growth and led to the overall fall in the agricultural sector. Against the production of 13.96m bales last year, this year the country produced 10.07m bales of cotton. This resulted in a decline of 21.6pc in ginning as compared to last year.

The production of rice also suffered as 6.81m tonnes of rice were produced this year as compared to 7m tonnes last year. Likewise, the production of maize was recorded at 4.92m tonnes as compared to 4.93m tonnes last year.

Other crops also registered a mild decrease of 0.31pc as compared to the growth of 3.09pc last year. Important crops having a share of 23.55pc in the agricultural value-added sector has witnessed further negative growth of 7.18pc during the outgoing fiscal year.

The survey said that with a drop in cotton production by around 27.83pc this year, the cotton ginning having a share of 2.32pc in value-addition of agriculture has suffered badly and posted negative growth of 21.26pc compared to 7.24pc growth during the same period of last year.

The livestock sector performed better during the current fiscal year and it recorded a growth of 3.63pc. The production of livestock products, milk, poultry products and other livestock items increased 2.93pc, 3.21pc, 7.59pc and 1.33pc, respectively.

Fisheries recorded a moderate growth of 3.25pc against the growth of 5.75pc last year. The sub-components of fisheries such as marine fishing and inland fishing contributed to an overall increase in the value-addition of this sub-sector.

The survey pointed out that the share of forestry reduced during the current fiscal year, and for this reason the country has become vulnerable to climate changes.

This necessitated increasing forest cover in the country to overcome environmental degradation and ensure sustainable development.

The survey noted that domestic production of fertilisers during the first nine months (July-March) of the outgoing fiscal year surged 14.4pc year-on-year. The total availability of fertilisers surged by 9.7pc, but total off-take of fertiliser nutrients fell 10.1pc.

Nitrogen off-take decreased 14pc while that of phosphate increased 2.9pc.

Prices of all phosphatic fertilisers dropped during FY16 as a result of a farmers’ package announced by the federal government with the start of Rabi season.

Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2016

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