THE Balochistan government’s first-ever Livestock Policy and Strategy sets a road map to stimulating rapid growth in the sector, and aims at delivering prosperity and well-being to the families and businesses.

However, the policy is heavily dependent on the significant commitment of donors to achieve its outcome.

Livestock is a major pillar of Balochistan’s economy, contributing more than 50 per cent to the provincial GDP. The sector is not only a mainstay of the provincial economy, but it is also a way of life for its people and is an essential part of Balochistan’s culture and tradition.

“If we use our land, water, climate and livestock resources well, we can create a prosperous livestock sector that can provide our people with employment and good income,” said Mitta Khan Kakar, the adviser to chief minister on livestock.

Following the approval of the policy, the provincial government is now preparing a five-year implementation strategy under which some interventions will be funded with public funds through provincial government and the Public Sector Development Programme. The policy and the strategy will be presented to the federal government and donor community for either direct or joint funding.

At present, the province suffers from significant overstocking, and the productivity from this huge flock is well below its potential

Conservative estimates suggest that escalating these and other interventions through the policy and strategy can improve the livestock household income by 50 per cent over the next ten years. It can also generate over Rs100 billion for the provincial population and businesses by boosting the livestock sector besides improving the food security and nutritional status.

According to the livestock and dairy development department of Balochistan, there are 32 million sheep and goats in the province. The total population of livestock, excluding poultry, is about 39 million. Inevitably, Balochistan suffers from significant overstocking and the productivity from this huge flock is well below its potential, the policy document says.

The rapidly developing road and communication network in Balochistan has improved the delivery of inputs and access to currently important provincial and national markets, as well as the future potential for increased exports to China and the Middle East.

Balochistan is aiming to incentivise complementary CPEC investments by establishing special economic zones focused on processing and marketing provincial products.

The policy and the strategy will be complemented by a detailed five-year strategy and an annual intervention plan outlining the specific roles expected from investors, institutions and policymakers.

The policymakers will identify areas where reform and change are needed to overcome bottlenecks and build an enabling environment that ensures both economic growth and people well-being.

Mina Dowlatchahi, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Representative in Pakistan, was pleased to see the first-ever livestock policy of Balochistan, and commented that the policy is a milestone in the development of the provincial livestock sector. She said the government has shown great commitment and FAO looks forward to continuing its support to help achieve policy outcomes.

A livestock exhibition was organised in Quetta last week to open new prospects for livestock entrepreneurs, investors, traders, processors, male and female livestock farmers and other value chain actors from across Balochistan as well as other provinces. Farmers, experts, students, investors, traders and civil society, attended, and as many as 60 companies showcased their products and services.

An assessment report says Balochistan’s livestock sector is facing a crisis, as flock is minimally managed with very low productivity and profitability.

The livestock policy suggests that the provincial government should avoid becoming a market player or introducing subsidies or incentives that compromise business profitability or distort the market.

Instead, the Balochistan government should work with the chamber of commerce, the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority, and local entrepreneurs and financiers to promote co-investments or credit guarantee arrangements that deliver significant provincial livestock business investment in provincial processing of livestock products, and improved access, range and quality of input products, pharmaceuticals, veterinary services, etc.

Preference should be given to investment options that fill missing market functions for the province or for specific districts. In particular, this should focus on providing localised services wherever feasible and profitable.

In the short term, the national market in Pakistan is the most important for livestock products from Balochistan, which is currently underrepresented in this market. Even in key areas of strength such as sheep and goats, Balochistan only delivers 16 per cent of the national production.

Significant growth in local, provincial and national markets is possible for almost all products. However, this will require a focus on the whole value chain to improve the production efficiency and effectiveness of various steps. Development of these national value chains should be the focus of the government, the sector and key development projects.

In the longer term, access to international markets will require every step of the value chain to work together to meet high product standards.

However, sanitary and phytosanitary compliance, food safety and quality standards, traceability and better product quality are essential to formally access many markets such as the Middle East and China.

One potential market advantage of Balochistan’s current low-inputs system is the ability for some producers to market products that comply with organic certification.

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, December 2nd, 2019