PUNJAB is trying to develop its farm sector in a bid to claim a reasonable share in more than $111bn per annum farm imports of China.
The provincial government has created a special China-Pakistan Economic Corridor-related cell in the agriculture department and earmarked specific areas with budgetary allocations while according priority to projects like promoting high-value agricultural products along the CPEC route.
“To harness the potential of CPEC, we’ve have set up a full-fledged CPEC Unit in the department tasking it with not only identifying potential areas of partnership with China but also suggesting development along the western route of CPEC,” says a top official involved in planning for the CPEC-related projects.
He says the government has asked the department to work on projects that may tentatively fetch at least $1bn in agriculture exports to China at the earliest.
He says some planners believe that Punjab’s share in Chinese agricultural imports can be easily raised up to $10bn by investing in high-value agriculture on a sustained basis. The government plans to establish seven agro-economic zones along the CPEC route.
The provincial government has created a special CPEC-related cell in the agriculture department to promote high-value agricultural products along the CPEC route for exports to China
The Zone-1 comprises Talagang tehsil of Chakwal district, which has been identified mainly to promote farming of peanuts and grapes along with several other fruits, vegetables and allied businesses. In the Zone-2, that encompasses Chakri tehsil of Rawalpindi, olive cultivation will be encouraged.
Citrus and allied businesses will be promoted in Bhalwal tehsil of Sargodha, whereas grapes farms and allied industry will be developed in Bhakkar.
Mango, citrus, tomato and related businesses will be focused in Multan zone; guava and strawberry in Lahore, while potato and other vegetables will be promoted in the Okara zone.
Over 150,000 acres of land will be made cultivable in Chakwal, Attock and Mianwali districts by investing in small dams and reservoirs for harvesting rain water.
An official of the on-farm water management directorate says they have been asked to explore possibilities of water availability in 10km area along both sides of the CPEC route in the three districts. “As subsoil water yield in the region is not promising we are focusing on harvesting rainfall. There are already some mini dams in the area and a hefty amount of around Rs10bn is likely to be apportioned for constructing more such reservoirs.”
To promote corporate farming, contract farming and agro processing, the CPEC Unit has also identified projects for setting up cold chain and warehouses etc.
“We’ve prepared pre-feasibility studies of some value addition projects like batch dryer, quick freezing process, olive oil extraction and solar dehydration of vegetables and presented them to participants of the international seminar on Business Opportunities in Punjab recently held in Lahore,” says special secretary, planning, Dr Ghazanfar.
Referring to the over $25bn per annum imports of soybean (oil and by-products) into China, he says Punjab has set up a centre of excellence for soybean while a project is also underway to develop new and better varieties of the crop.
Dr Ghazanfar says the department is working on removing supply chain bottlenecks as well as introducing and promoting traceable farming and food certification system to bring the local agro-business at par with international standards.
The department is also trying to wooing investment from China, in the agriculture sector by offering partnerships. The potential areas of partnership include promotion of organic farming; introduction of collective/cooperative farming; establishment of hi-tech agricultural mechanisation industry; development of precision and high-value agriculture; development and production of seed and seed technology (hybrid and open pollinated varieties); manufacturing of pesticides and fertiliser units, and processing units for value-addition of agriculture products along the CPEC route.
At least eight MoUs were signed during the two-day international moot. Three of these were between government-to-business and five between business-to-business or for joint ventures between local, Chinese and Turkish companies, says an official of the Punjab Board of Investment.
Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, June 12th, 2017