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Land consolidation and seed technology could increase agricultural productivity in Pakistan

The agriculture sector in Pakistan has significant potential for foreign direct investment (FDI) and various factors such as food security, availability of uncultivated land spanning millions of acres, cost-effective workforce and Pakistan’s conducive agro-climatic conditions to grow a wide range of crops make a strong case for promoting FDI in the agriculture sector. Such investments in agricultural and industrial production could lead to job creation, increased exports and generation of additional tax revenues. Corporate farming is one area that could offer viable investment prospects but to be able to reap its benefits, Pakistan needs to focus on agricultural research and advanced seed production technologies. This, in turn, will result in enormous seed imports of agronomic and horticultural crops driven by farmers’ increased adoption of high-yielding/hybrid seeds. This initiative will also enhance the country’s crop productivity and farm incomes by ensuring the availability of affordable, high-yielding seeds.

Poor seed quality and widespread sale of unapproved varieties are resulting in low yield. At present there is a large gap of 66 per cent between the supply and demand of certified seeds in the country. There is a need to develop a national seed policy for implementation to get long-term positive results through public-private partnerships. The Seed Amendment Act, of 2015, liberalized the seed sector which resulted in mushroom growth of domestic private seed companies. The extensive consultation was carried out to streamline the seed sector by using advanced genomic technologies as well as of information technology system for transparency. The regulatory system in Pakistan is improving but due to weak enforcement, it is unable to attract foreign companies in the seed sector. Moreover, the national breeders’ intellectual property right is being pirated.

Investment attraction

On one hand, Pakistan is heavily reliant on imports for essential agricultural inputs, such as fertilizers, pesticides, and various types of machinery (harvesters, planters, balers, water pumps, electric motors, etc.), has been on the rise. On the other hand, a significant portion of Pakistan’s agricultural exports comprise commodities (agricultural crops) without any significant value addition through primary, secondary, or territory processing. Expanding the country’s cultivated area through corporate farming, if aimed rightly, could address effectively the challenges of soaring import bills, suboptimal export growth, and ever-increasing rural poverty. Pakistan must actively attract investments in both the agricultural inputs industry as well as agro-processing sector but a conducive investment climate and an enabling business environment that can reduce the cost of doing business are a must to attract investments.

As far as expanding the country’s cultivated area is concerned, over the last five decades, the number of farms has surged, rising from 3.76 million to approx. 10 million. However, the issue of fragmented lands has failed many agricultural strategies and policies. Land consolidation is one of the solutions in response to diminishing land sizes and increasing fragments. It may help farmers create larger and more uniform fields, making it easier to use modern farming equipment and practices effectively. Smaller farms often encounter obstacles when attempting to adopt modern farming machinery due to their limited scale. Through consolidation, there will be increased access to mechanization and financial resources.

Land consolidation often leads to economies of scale, providing advantages of bulk purchasing of inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides, and benefit from lower per-unit production costs. This can result in increased profitability and productivity. This, in turn, enables small farmers to engage in value-added activities such as food processing, packaging, and marketing, while also gaining access to larger markets through the establishment of efficient value chains. Ultimately, this enhances their profitability.

Challenges associated with land titles, boundary disputes, tenancy rights, and the maintenance of land records can pose obstacles. Further, land consolidation may encounter resistance from landowners who harbor concerns about potential encroachment on their land rights. But, they can be resolved through careful strategizing, efficient and transparent regulatory mechanisms, and active community involvement. The legal provisions coupled with promising advantages create a strong case for embracing land consolidation in Pakistan. It would lay the foundation for a more prosperous and sustainable agricultural future. This transformation will not only bring benefits to farmers but also play a significant role in bolstering food security, fostering rural development, and contributing to overall economic growth.