PAKISTAN is an agricultural country. Nature has blessed us with four seasons, fertile land, sweet water, better breeds of livestock, lots of resources in marine as well as inland fisheries and manpower required for better production in every subsector, like agriculture crops, livestock, fisheries, forestry, alternative energy and better climate.
But despite these blessings, the production per acre, per unit and per animal is too low to meet the dietary needs of the country. Consequently, the country is spending huge amount of foreign exchange to import food items, which is overburdening its economy.
There are several reasons behind low production. There is lack of ownership of the sector and lack of policy to create production zones. In contrast, Australia focuses on land, water, planning and technology usage to boost its output in the sector. It has created agriculture production and extension zones, dairy production and extension zones, apart from meat production and extension zones.
It has developed arid areas by creating wool development and extension zones for the production of fine wool, which is exported to other countries. This has earned them ample foreign exchange. The farmers of these arid areas are rich and even own their small planes to manage and look after their sheep farms.
We have non-execution of production policies, although many policy documents prepared by foreign and local experts are available with all the subsectors. We lack research and development to increase production per unit in all subsectors, although we have highly qualified individuals in almost all universities, research organisations and extension sectors.
There is reduced provision of facilities to improve the fertility of lands, while there is insufficient plantation of trees and forests and meagre facilities for the production of high quality seeds. Even the ordinary seeds for major crops like wheat, rice, cotton and edible oil are not available. Also missing are facilities related to multi-cutting, saline and drought-resistant fodder.
Inadequate efforts to ban slaughtering of elite dams and calves is also a cause behind low production. Resultantly, milk and meat production has reduced and their cost has increased significantly.
There is hardly any planning for culturing practices in marine sector, though there is a lot of potential for fisheries and shrimps. Uncontrolled capturing practices render the potential of fisheries to risk.
We do not have planning and services for the development of semi-arid and arid regions for livestock development, saline and drought-resistant fodder, and tree plantation for increasing production of meat, wool, skin and hides.
We lack incentives and facilities for the provision of solar and biomass energy in semi-arid, arid and underdeveloped regions, while there are no policy initiatives for the provision of soft term credits without mortgage to smaller farmers of all the subsectors through commercial banks.
There is hardly any policy of awarding best farmers and technical officers of the sectors at the national level. We lack planning to charge the utilities of all the subsectors equally as per the agricultural rates. There are no incentives and subsidies to look after elite dams, and rearing and fattening of calves. There are no efforts to change livestock selling system at markets from per animal to weight basis so that the farmers are forced to fatten their male animals to increase their weight before sale.
The lack of water for land cultivation and other purposes, inefficient plant protection and disease investigation services, and costly disease control measures are also contributing to low production.
The government should constitute committees comprising experienced individuals for proper planning in critical areas across all the subsectors of agriculture. This is one of the critical ways to improve the country’s economy.
Dr Baz Muhammad Junejo
Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2022