Pakistan does not have a broad base Agriculture policy to address various issues creating hurdles in the progress and development of agriculture sector, which play key role in the country’s economy and contribute 21 percent of GDP.
Ahmad Baksh Lehari Secretary Ministry of National Food Security and Research (NFS&R) told the Senate Standing Committee on Tuesday that NFS&R is working to devise an agriculture policy in the near future, as currently there is no formal agriculture policy because we are streamlining our different departments, when asked by Senator Syed Muzafar Hussain Shah chairman of the committee is there any Agriculture policy existing in the country.
Senator Syed Muzafar Hussain presided over the meeting and Senator Amar Jeet, Hari Ram, Muhammad Zafarullah Khan Dhandla, Nuzhat Sadiq, Ahmad Bakhs Secretary MFS&R, Major General Tauqeer Managing Director Pakistan Agriculture Storage and Service Corporation (PASCO) and senior officials of the ministry attended the meeting.
The Chairman of committee urged the MFS&R to devise a broad base agriculture policy with co-ordination of all stockholders including provinces to address various issues like import and export of agricultural inputs and products, price setting, standardisation, quarantine issues, national research and inter provincial issues such as the rehabilitation, operation and maintenance of primary irrigation structure and protection of farmers. He directed the secretary of MFS&R to present a proper guideline regarding agriculture policy and rules of business of all the attached departments in the next meeting.
Major General Tauqeer MD Passco said that presently total wheat stock with Passco is 250 million tons and Passco has only about 431,000 tons of wheat storage capacity. Passco is facing the problem of shortage of storage facilities, as it did not construct storage facilities for last 20 years, he said. He said that Passco has singed an MoU with Islamic Development Bank (IDB) to construct 34 grain storage facilities across the country in the shape of steel silos, which would assist the government to preserve staple food items such as wheat, rice and pulses for longer time and will have capacity of 6,50,000 tons. Under the MoU the IDB will provide 80 percent fund and government will provide 20 percent for the execution of the project. He appealed to the committee to ask government to provide fund to Passco.
Tauqeer said that Passco maintain strategic reserves of wheat and other specified commodities and maintain wheat stocks for Saarc food bank. Procure food commodities at government fix price and undertake import/export of different food grins, he said.
Ahmad Baksh Lehari Secretary NFS&R further informed the committee that after the 18th Amendment Act 2010, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and Ministry of Livestock and Dairy Development were devolved in June 30, 2011 and April 5, 2011 respectively. Some of the functions enlisted in the federal legislative list pertaining to these ministries were retained at the federal level, he said.
He said that in view of the importance of national food security and better execution of retained functions, the NFS&R was established by the government on October 26, 2011. He said that the main responsibilities of the NFS&R include economic co-ordination and planning in respect of food, economic planning and policy making in respect of agriculture.
Similarly, imports and exports of control on food grains and foodstuffs, inspections, grading analysis of food grains and foodstuffs, maintenance of standards of quality for import and export, storage and shipment of rice exports along with collection of statistics regarding production consumption, prices, imports and exports of food grains.
The ministry is also responsible to co-ordinate with aid and assistance agencies in respect of food sector. The attach department of the Ministry is Agriculture Policy Institute (API), Federal Seed Certification and Registration Department (FSC&RD), Department of Plant Protection (DPP), Animal Quarantine Department (AQD) and National Veterinary Laboratory (NVL).
Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC), Passco, Pakistan Oilseed Development Board (PODB), Livestock and Dairy Development Board (LDDB), Fisheries Development Board (FDB), Pakistan Dairy Development Company (PDDC) and Federal Water Management Cell (FWMC).