Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has expressed his firm resolve to increase irrigation intensity through fuller utilisation of available water resources by expanding the on-farm water management programmes and generating hydel electricity on a large scale from local water reservoirs and small dams.
“We would build consensus on the basis of the 1991 Water Accord to allow new water projects to be undertaken and extension of irrigation facilities to additional areas,” he said while addressing a delegation of PML-N activists in Lahore. The PML-N leader maintained that they would reform the agriculture credit system to ensure that at least 50 per cent of the total is provided to small farmers and that land owners are able to obtain credit on the basis of the market value of the land rather than outdated produce index units. Priority would be given to women borrowers in micro credit programmes, he said.
It may be noted that agriculture with a contribution of 21 per cent to national GDP is the single largest sector of the economy and provides employment to more than half the country’s labour force. Agriculture and agro based products account for 70 per cent of total export earnings and the sector supplies many of the industries with raw materials. In turn the sector consumes more than 40 per cent of industrial finished goods.
He further said the PML-N, after coming into power, would give status of industry to the agriculture sector and will also introduce the corporate culture in agriculture sector in a bid to resolve problems of farmers. “We would distribute land among landless farmers and tenants while provision of agri inputs like fertiliser, seeds, pesticides, soft loans etc, would also be ensured for the farmers,” he said.
The PML-N manifesto says, “With a major expansion of water supply through tube wells for irrigation in the 1970’s and 1980’s, the total cropped area has increased by one third to 24 million hectare, yielding an average annual agricultural growth rate of 5.4 per cent in 1980’s and 4.4 per cent in the 1990’s. This growth rate slowed down to 3.2 per cent in the decade of 2000 due to adverse terms of trade but overall the agriculture sector remains an efficient user of domestic resources both as a provider of additional employment opportunities and as a producer of goods for consumption and for exports. With efficient use of modern technologies there is considerable scope for increasing agriculture productivity in the coming years.”
To accelerate the pace of agriculture development and to reduce poverty by diversifying the rural economy to expand non-farm employment, PML-N Manifesto envisages to undertake the following specific programmes and measures for the integrated development of agriculture, livestock, fisheries, horticulture and forestry:
—- Turn agriculture into a fully-viable economic industry by changing the policy framework and terms of trade in favour of agriculture;
—- Focus on small farmers as the real back-bone of the rural economy and assure their access to knowledge, inputs and markets;
—- Give high priority to development of the livestock sector and self-sufficiency in oilseeds, as a part of an overall program to fisheries and horticulture crops like fruits, vegetables and dates will be given special incentives;
—- Revitalise corporate agriculture to overcome the limitation of the small land owners by setting up land development corporations with majority equity of the poor and managed by professional managers.
—- Convert Pakistan into a large net exporter of food and high value crops to regional markets by modernising post-harvest storage and marketing systems. There is very large demand for Halal products in these markets.
—- Launch major programme of aquifer recharge in arid and semiarid areas of Cholistan, Thar and Balochistan to ensure that water flows from tube wells installed in these areas can be sustained;
—- Provide incentives for farmers to adopt social forestry on a commercial scale rather than depend on restrictive laws for this purpose particularly in border areas;
—- Revamp all agriculture research organisations to ensure that there is sustained increase in productivity to meet the demands of a growing population and that the benefits of research actually reach the farmers;