AGRICULTURE is the backbone of our economy, the primary supplier of raw materials to industry, contributing to our exports. It is also a large market for industrial produce such as fertilisers, insecticides, tractors and agriculture implements.
Being the second largest sector of the economy, it contributes about 21 per cent to the GDP, generates productive employment opportunities for 45 per cent of the labour force while 60 per cent of the rural population depend directly or indirectly this sector for their livelihood.
At present the agriculture system is creating inequality and food insecurity. About 40 per cent of people are food-insecure, and small farmers have no say in decision-making.
Agriculture is no longer profitable for small farmers who are abandoning it and migrating to cities.
Pakistan has a potential for irrigated agriculture with fresh water from the River Indus and other rivers. It also has a weather that is suitable for almost all production, but unfortunately the agriculture sector is being neglected. The government must boost the agriculture sector through food security strategies. However, for sustainable agricultural growth and food security, our planners and policymakers need to be able to link energy requirements with specific objectives of agricultural and rural developments.
There is a strong need to re-evaluate the agriculture policy and declare agriculture as industry. This will help put this sector on a sustainable development course and put the economy back on the track. The following measures are suggested for re-evaluation:
First, farmers should be enabled to get suitable returns for their farm produce.
Second, there should be easy availability of agriculture production loans to farmers from Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited and other loan-giving agencies.
Third, strengthening of national price monitoring commodities at all levels.
Fourth, increasing national crop yields as the yield gap in the major crops in the country is more than the best producer in the world.
Fifth, minimising losses in fruits and vegetables which are caused due to the absence of required storages.
Sixth, increasing per-acre yield through large-scale introduction of hybrid seeds.
Seven, ensuring more storage facilities for agricultural commodities so that farmers do not suffer losses in case of surplus crop produce.
In view of the above, the federal and provincial governments should re-evaluate the agriculture policy.