Pakistan has developed in the services and manufacturing sectors, but agriculture still remains one of the most significant components of the country’s economic mix. As a consequence, in the sector it is even more concerning when one observes the scale of systematic negligence, which has prevented it from reaching anywhere close to its potential.
Consequent upon the Floods-2022, the Government of Pakistan mentioned that the Rabi season crops have shown higher yield, which compensated the crop damages of the Kharif season, leading to an overall growth of agriculture sector to 1.55 per cent. As such, the production growth of sugarcane (2.8 per cent), wheat (5.4 per cent) and maize (6.9 per cent) compensated the pessimistic growth of cotton (41.0 per cent) and rice (21.5 per cent). Furthermore, the normalisation of livestock activities also led to convergence towards the stability path.
The overall fall of significant crops during the fiscal year under review was recorded 3.20 per cent. FY 2022 witnessed a rise of 0.23 per cent in other crops mainly because of a rise in oil seeds production by 53.15 per cent. Cotton ginning having a share of 0.97 per cent in agriculture and 0.22 per cent in GDP declined by 23.01 per cent because of the decline in cotton production. However, it is well compensated through the rise in the production of other crops.
The government also recorded that unluckily the devastating flooding affected 33 million people in 94 districts across the country, took the lives of more than 1,700 people, displaced almost 7.6 million people, and resulted in the loss of critical agricultural infrastructure, standing crops, grain storage, and livestock. Sindh and Balochistan provinces were the hardest hit among Pakistan’s 6 provinces/regions. About 14.6 million people were in need of food security and livelihood (agriculture) related emergency assistance. No doubt, Pakistan’s agriculture sector was the hardest hit sector both in terms of damages and losses. About 4.4 million acres of crops were damaged and approximately 1 million animals lost. Total damages and losses amounted to US$ 30.13 billion, of which agriculture suffered US$12.9 billion. The crop sub-sector contributed to 82 per cent of the total damage and losses, livestock to 7 per cent, and fisheries/aquaculture to 1 per cent. Out of the total need of US$16 billion for recovery and reconstruction, US$ 4 billion was required for the agriculture sector. The country’s sources recorded that must improve its crop yield to at least regional averages. A crucial starting point to achieve this, would be amending the Seed Act to offer regulatory and legal support for private seed firms to develop superior seed varieties that can maximise output.
Further, the expansion of cultivated land of fruits and vegetables backed by a reliable cold chain infrastructure would serve as a lucrative revenue stream and also a process of preserving water. It additionally, is crucial to offer farmers greater protection against risks like floods and exploitation through middlemen. The conversion of farm products furthermore, into higher value-added goods by processing can serve as a means of amplifying the sector’s output. Service providers small as well as large, formal and informal, must be supported actively to upgrade cultivation at both large and small farms. Service providers are the entities that can facilitate farmers’ shift to cultivation practices that complement mechanisation. It is also recorded that a shift from scrap machines to a national fleet of new machines is required to move Pakistan towards local manufacturing of worldwide competitive farm machinery as training is a must.
On the other hand, banks fall short of offering enough credit to farmers, with complex documentation requirements and a lack of knowledge hindering access to loans. As a consequence, various farmers resort to informal borrowing loan sharks and are subsequently exploited.
Statistics showed that the government has presently made an allocation of Rs 5 billion in the budget to offer concessional loans that support the growth of the agro-industry. Additionally, the Prime Minister’s Youth Business and Agriculture Loan Scheme will offer easy loans to small and medium-scale farmers, with a subsidy of Rs 10 billion earmarked for markup rates in the upcoming financial year. Further, the Government of Pakistan has planned to offer low-interest loans to small farmers in collaboration with provincial governments, with an allocation of Rs 10 billion for this specific purpose. However, there is still a long road ahead in terms of reviving the agriculture sector. Nevertheless, it is encouraging to see that the state machinery is now prioritising the sector, as they are finally recognising its potential.
Statistics showed that livestock having a share of 62.68 per cent in agriculture and 14.36 per cent in GDP increased at 3.78 per cent compared to 2.25 per cent during last year. The forestry sector having share of 2.23 per cent in agriculture value addition and 0.51 per cent in GDP increased at 3.93 per cent against 4.07 per cent last year because of rise in timber production. Fishing sector having share of 1.39 per cent in agriculture value addition and 0.32 per cent in GDP, increased at 1.44 per cent as compared to 0.35 per cent during last year. Water availability during Kharif 2022 fell to 43.3 Million Acre Feet (MAF) from 65.1 MAF during Kharif 2021.While for Rabi 2022-23, it reached at 29.4 MAF, registered a rise of 7 per cent over Rabi 2021-22. The farmer most importantly should not be denied the correct price of his produce and his expectation of a reasonable profit for his hard work should be kept in view. The price structure of the agricultural sector should cover the financial cost of production and all associated expenses. The infrastructure of the agricultural production regions should be enhanced facilitating farmers to carry out their chores comfortably.