LAHORE: The federal government has announced a two-tier intervention strategy under a plan to transform the agriculture sector to boost its growth measured at 2.77 per cent during the year despite large-scale losses in cotton crop.
The Economic Survey of Pakistan 2020-21 released on Thursday identifies shrinking arable land, climate change, water shortages and labour shift from rural to urban areas as main constraints in the growth of the agriculture sector.
To overcome the limitations, the government has approved an action plan with specific timeline for interventions, yield gaps and particular sectoral issues in a two-tier strategy to be implemented both by the federation and federating units.
To achieve the targets of cotton revival, olive deepening, and genetic improvement in livestock, the first generation interventions aim at bridging yield gaps, suggesting revisit of the criteria for induction, performance, evaluation and cancellation of seed companies, delineating separate requirements for local seed producers and importers with mandatory local seed production by the latter.
23pc higher farm credit disbursement target set
It also includes a system for consumer traceability for seed authenticity as well as certified seed track and traceability. The plan entails digital subsidy mechanism (Kisan card) for inputs, an emphasis on mechanisation and water efficiency, revamping extension services, and restructuring research institutes.
It sets Rs1.5 trillion farm credit disbursement target for the next fiscal, 23.5 per cent higher than the outgoing year’s Rs1.215tr. The initiatives for promoting farm financing include loan repayment relief to dampen Covid-19 effects, crop loan insurance, livestock insurance scheme for borrowers, regulatory space for innovative financing, e-credit scheme in Punjab, and credit guarantee scheme for small and marginalised farmers.
It hints at developing commodity storages to arrest higher post-harvest losses reported up to 40pc of various crops and fruits.
The government will go for crop zoning, land consolidation, organic farming, adaptation and self-discovery with second generation interventions, which include horizontal expansion, seeking international cooperation in technology transfer, developing value chains of various farm and livestock products, setting up clusters of fruit and vegetables packaging and processing industries.
Focusing the persistent cotton crop failure, the survey notes biotic stresses of white-fly and pink bollworm, abiotic stresses like climate change, heat stresses and extreme rainfalls, poor agricultural practices, unnecessary use of pesticides, higher costs of inputs, lack of early generation seed as the factors contributing to the white lint decline.
It quotes experts as suggesting cotton zoning with fixation of minimum indicative or intervention prices, and timely issuance of subsidies as indispensable to revive the crop and exploring avenues for cotton growing in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where pest pressure is low and cotton yields are reportedly higher than traditional areas of Punjab and Sindh.
Published in Dawn, June 11th, 2021