FAISALABAD: Agriculture experts expressed grave concern over the heavy annual spending of Rs110 billion on the import of pulses by Pakistan and urged the government to take measures to improve growers economy and increase production of these ignored crops.

The University of Agriculture Faisalabad Vice Chancellor Dr Muhammad Ashraf during a meeting with Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) delegation said it was need of the hour that the government must focus on increasing the cultivation of protein rich pulses to reduce the import bill.

He regretted the focus had been on five major crops only, whereas the land, climate and ecosystem of the country was fit for growing many other crops as well.

He pointed out that farmers who grow pulses had to face many problems for which effective measures were needed to be taken so that their income could be raised and pulses production and cultivation area could be increased.

The delegation included University of Queensland, Australia’s Dr Rajendra Adhikari and ACIAR Pakistan Country Manager Munawar Raza Kazmi.

Dr Ashraf said 90 percent of the farming community comprised small farmers, adding that awareness should be raised among them about the use of latest techniques. He added that they should also be provided with low-prices machinery for bringing sustainability to the agriculture sector.

The meeting discussed ACIAR’s ongoing project ‘Developing Competitive and Inclusive Value Chains of Pulses in Pakistan’.

Dr Adhikari said pulses were protein rich and Australia had joined the club of pulses exporting countries. He expressed the hope that the project would prove fruitful to address the challenges of the agricultural sector.

Dr Kazmi said two decades ago, the country was self-sufficient in pulses production. Regretting levy of 35 percent export tax on pulses, he said the farmers were ignoring this important crop which had a lot of potential.

Dr Khalid Mushtaq said the project was developed keeping in view present situation of pulses and the scope of these crops. He added it would help increase the productivity of mung, mash, lentil and chickpea crops in the country.

Dr Mubashir Mehdi said the country was producing around 500,000 tonnes of major pulses like chickpea, lentil, mung and mash beans. The rest of the pulses requirement was being met through imports.

Dr Burhan Ahmad said Pakistan was a net importer of pulses and its import bill had increased to an alarming level. He said the pulses were not only an important source of protein but also a cheap source of energy.

Published in Dawn, January 24th, 2020