The government achieved remarkable successes in the agriculture sector, wheat production in Pakistan reached highest-ever level of 25 million tons and now Pakistan is recognised as a net wheat exporting country. President Asif Ali Zardari said this in a message read out by Dr Nadeem Amjad, Member of Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) on the occasion of World Food Day organised by PARC, Ministry of National Food Security & Research, in collaboration with Food and Agriculture Organisation and World Food Program (WFP).
This year the theme of the World Food Day was ‘Agricultural Co-operatives: key to feeding the world’ in recognition of co-operatives’ role for improving food security and contributing to the eradication of hunger. Zardari said that the government achieved extraordinary success during first four years of its tenure. “Wheat production has reached highest level of 25 million tons. We have exportable surplus and are now recognised as a net wheat exporting country. Sugarcane production is record 63 million tons and for the first time in the history of Pakistan, we are expecting 5 million tons of sugar production. It is also my government achievement that the sugar prices have gone down,” he said.
He said that floods had damaged cotton crop areas and “our cotton farmers suffered more than any other farmers group, there has been substantial improvement in yield due to which our cotton production has also reached a record level of 14.2 million bales”.
Asif Ali Zardari, in his message, said that rice “is our major export commodity and is fetching higher prices due to quality improvement”. “We are also opening up high end markets such as USA and Japan for our horticulture crops like mango and citrus. We are aware that in Pakistan food is surplus but its access to various parts in the country at affordable prices particularly to the poor is a problem. My government is focusing now on more employment creation and helping the poorest segment of the society through Benazir Income Support program to increase their income levels so that the people could easily purchase food. In march this year our government made a commitment to initiate the National Zero Hunger Program and as a token of our commitment we have already released 50,000 tons of wheat for distribution among the poor and displaced people.”
Dr Khalid Naeem Khwaja of the National Agricultural Research Centre (NARC) read out the message of Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on the occasion. Prime Minster, in his message, said that reducing poverty, hunger and food insecurity “are essential parts of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and prerequisites for economic development. He said: “Food security thus becomes a fundamental component of national security which is generally ignored. But it is not the case in Pakistan now, as food security is the fundamental agenda of the government,” he said.
Raja Pervez Ashraf said that Pakistan is food surplus, but access to food due to low purchasing power of some segments of the society is limited. My job is to increase income levels of the poor so that they have no problem in buying food from the market, he said.
The government has taken a number of initiatives to boost crop production such as water sector development, development of agricultural infrastructure and grain storage facilities, launching of Benazir Tractor Scheme, special program for food security and productivity enhancement, seed sector improvement, crop loan insurance scheme and Banazir Income Support Program to help the poorest segment of the society.