The Senate Standing Committee on Food Security and Research on Tuesday directed the concerned ministry to devise a broad base agriculture policy with the coordination of all stakeholders particularly provinces.
The new agriculture policy should address various important 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.
The Committee was informed the country Pakistan did not have a formal agriculture policy to address various issues creating hurdles in the development of agriculture sector, which play key role in the Pakistan economy and contribute 21 percent of GDP.
Ministry of National Food Security and Research (NFS&R) was directed the to present a proper guideline regarding agriculture policy and rules of business of all attached department in the next meeting.
Ahmad Baksh Lehari Secretary Ministry Food informed Committee the Ministry was working to devise an agriculture policy in the near future.
He said after the 18th amendment the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and Ministry of Livestock and Dairy Development were devolved. Some of the functions enlisted in the federal legislative list pertaining to these ministries were retained at the federal level, he said.
The government on October 26, 2011 established Ministry of National Food Security and Research.
He said main responsibilities of the Ministry include economic coordination and planning in respect of food, economic planning and policy making in respect of agriculture. 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.
Similarly it also conducts collection of statistics regarding production consumption, prices, imports and exports of food grains.
Ministry is responsible to coordinate with aid and assistance agencies in respect of food sector. The attach department of the Ministry is Agriculture Policy Institute, Federal Seed Certification and Registration Department, Department of Plant Protection, Animal Quarantine Department and National Veterinary Laboratory, Pakistan Agriculture Research Council, PASSCO, Pakistan Oilseed Development Board, Livestock and Dairy Development Board, Fisheries Development Board, Pakistan Dairy Development Company and Federal Water Management Cell.
Maj-Gen Tauqeer MD PASSCO said presently total wheat stock with PASSCO was 250 million tonnes and PASSCO has only the capacity to store about 431,000 tonnes of wheat.
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 PASSCO has singed a 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 like wheat, rice and pulses for longer time and will have capacity of 650,000 tonnes.
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.
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.