Economic Survey 2023-24: Agriculture’s ‘best performance’ in two decades helps drive economic growth

Published June 12, 2024
BUOYED by a significant growth of 16.8pc in the production of wheat, cotton, and rice crops, the agriculture sector improved its share in gross domestic product from 23.2pc in FY23 to 24pc in FY24.—AFP/file
BUOYED by a significant growth of 16.8pc in the production of wheat, cotton, and rice crops, the agriculture sector improved its share in gross domestic product from 23.2pc in FY23 to 24pc in FY24.—AFP/file

LAHORE: Notwithstanding the challenges of lack of finance, quality inputs, efficient market systems, research and development, and extension services, the agriculture sector grew 6.3 per cent in 2023-24 compared to 2.3pc last year, driven by healthy growth in important crops, reveals the Pakistan Economic Survey 2023-24 released on Tuesday.

Rallied by a significant growth of 16.8pc in the production of wheat, cotton, and rice crops, the sector improved its share in gross domestic production from 23.2pc in FY23 to 24pc in FY24.

The agricultural sector growth of 6.3pc was the highest in 19 years, according to the research firm Arif Habib Ltd.

Wheat output witnessed a record growth of 11.6pc from 28.2 million tonnes last year to 31.4m tonnes this year, the survey said. Cotton, severely damaged by floods and rains last year, recorded 10.2m bales compared to 4.9m bales last year, growing by 108.2pc. Rice output also saw a significant increase — up by 34.8pc — reaching 9.9m tonnes compared to 7.3m tonnes.

Cotton, rice and wheat grow by 108.2 pc, 34.8pc and 11.6pc, respectively

Cotton ginning, with 0.3pc share in the GDP, grew by 47.2pc due to the significant increase in cotton production.

Sugarcane and maize, however, declined by 0.4pc and 10.4pc, respectively, mainly due to a drop in acreage. Sugarcane production came down from last year’s 88m tonnes to 87.6m tonnes, and maize came down from 11m tonnes to 9.8m tonnes. Though the sugarcane production area decreased, its yield increase (kg per hectare) is encouraging, highlighting the optimal agriculture policy mix.

Other crops have also shown a 0.9pc growth compared to a decline of -0.92pc last year. There was 8.4pc growth in fruits, 5.8pc in vegetables, and 1.5pc in pulses.

The survey reveals that water availability during Kharif 2023 increased to 61.9 million acre-feet (MAF) from 43.3 MAF in Kharif 2022 (flood year), meeting crop requirements. For Rabi 2023-24, water availability was recorded at 30.6 MAF, showing an increase of 4.1pc over Rabi 2022-23.

Overall domestic production of fertilisers during FY24 (July-March) increased by 17.3pc to 3.25m tonnes compared to 2.77m tonnes in the same period of FY23. Fertiliser imports also increased by 23.7pc, reaching 524,000 ton­nes. Consequently, the availability of fertilisers increased by 18.1pc to 3.77m tonnes.

The total offtake of fertiliser nutrients also saw an 18.7pc increase, reaching 3.95m tonnes. This was attributed to the extraordinarily low offtake during the previous year due to floods. Although gas prices for urea plants increased, the rise in average prices of urea and other nitrogen-containing fertilisers was disproportionately high compared to the increase in gas prices.

Agricultural lending during July-March FY24 went up by 33.3pc from Rs1.22 trillion disbursed during the same period last year to Rs1.63tr. It achie­ved 72.7pc of the annual target.

The outstanding portfolio of agricultural loans increased by Rs105.8 billion to reach Rs818.7bn by March 2024, compared to Rs712.9bn at the end of March 2023, reflecting a 14.8pc growth.

Livestock, which accounts for 60.8pc of the agricultural sector and 14.6pc of GDP, grew by 3.9pc in FY24, up from 3.7pc last year.

The forestry sector, contributing 2.3pc to agricultural value addition and 0.56pc to GDP, flourished by only 3.05pc compared to a significant 16.63pc growth last year.

The fishing sector, which claims 1.30pc of agricultural value addition and 0.31pc of GDP, grew by 0.81pc, up from 0.35pc the previous year.

During July-April of FY24, total fish production reached 720.9m tonnes, comprised of 410.9m tonnes from marine fisheries and the remainder from inland waters fisheries. The major fish buyers included China, Thailand, Malaysia, the Middle East, Sri Lanka, and Japan with 207,000 tonnes of fish and fish preparations exported, earning approximately $534.22m.

The sector seeks cooperation with China in the agriculture sector under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) both at government-to-government and business-to-business as steps to further strengthen the technological base of the sector.

The following initiatives under CPEC are currently under development: establishment of the Centre for Sustain­able Control of Plant Pest and Diseases, Juncao Technology Demonstration and Extension Project, Develo­pment of Foot and Mouth Disease Free Zones and local production of FMD vaccines, mechanisation of harvesting and post-harvesting processes, and establishment of Pak-China Modern Agricul­tural Science and Technology Transferring Centre.

Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2024

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