It is time to change and reshape the existing landscape of agriculture. Traditional Pakistani growers grow few selected varieties of few selected crops. As wheat and cotton are most common in crop rotation. All agricultural scientists agree that proper crop rotation is much necessary for improving yield and proper field management. Wheat and cotton both are exhaustive crops, they need more nutrients as compared to any other crop, so they deplete most of the soil nutrients and soil become deficient in micro and macro-nutrients.
Ultimately soil needs more fertilizer and organic matter. But unfortunately major nutrients as well as micro nutrients are difficult to afford by ordinary farmers of Pakistan. It should be analyzed that why farmers are forced to grow wheat and cotton? The known reason is hidden poverty in our villages, as they can make their both ends meet. But in actual terms, they have nothing on the name of basic necessities of life. Villagers are poor, but they grow enough wheat to keep the dog away form their houses. In situation of uncertainty, they can not take a risk to sow anything else than wheat.
Due to cultivation of wheat crop they can not afford other Rabi crops, particularly sunflower cultivation is much affected by competition with wheat. In case of cotton, it is established cash crop, it has its developed market and people are familiar with its production technology, and they are growing it from generation to generation. So in all circumstances, even in the worst days of threat by cotton leaf curl virus (CLCV) people do not left it. Along with the production of cotton crop many dreams of farmers are attached, so poor farmers seems to be forced to follow established crop rotation of cotton-wheat. In one season they earn their livelihood in other season they sow their dreams. In this circle of necessity they never think to change their cropping pattern.
Changing of crop rotation is much necessary for better crop and fertility of soil. As similar crop rotation make soils deficient in particular nutrients. It is also recommended practice for integrated pest management (IPM). Till the poor farmers would not change their cropping pattern, no change can be expected in their life and livings. Horticultural crops are better option for many areas, but continuous fear to bear the brunt of wheat shortage is big hurdle in the way of ultimate progress. Potato and sweat potato are also used as staple food in world, but people do no want to sacrifice luxury of wheat on potatoes. In fact there is no established market of horticultural crops.
There is false uncertainty in market price, some years so high and some years so less. So fear is genuine to grow any risky crop that cannot enable them to buy wheat for whole year. At present farmers are more curious about their basic daily requirement rather than more profit and development of the country. So important question is to fulfill the basic requirement of a farmers for its daily consumption. Development of specialized area like Pattoki in ornamental plants is a live example in front of us. Farmers left their traditional farming and adopted ornamental plant production as profession. As I know most the farmers are not big farmers, they have small holdings even less than 10 acre on an average. But mostly have all the basic necessities of life, and their life standard is well as compared to traditional farmers of Punjab. Actually the establishment of market encouraged people leave the traditional way of farming and results are in front of us.
But most important question is what should be grown, as whole Punjab can not developed as Pattoki. It is need of the hour to develop certain market in their particular area. Establishment of Sargodha, Bhalwal, Sahiwal as major citrus production area, development of Sharqpur and Sheikhupura as major guava production area, the famous cotton belt, distinction of an area as rice belt may fruitful effort for production of high yield and required benefits. If Indian Punjab can fulfill the whole-wheat requirement of India, then why not Pakistani Punjab can provide bread and butter to whole Pakistan. To develop a market there should be more emphasis on particular crop in particular area. Hidden poverty should be targeted; people should be encouraged to change their priorities in agriculture.
An awareness programme should be launched to create awareness among masses about the demerits of similar cropping pattern. More emphasize should be given on vegetable production. Dietary role of vegetables should enhanced in daily life to decrease dependency on cereal crops. But there is another problem in vegetable production as there is no established market, farmer can not safe the freshness of these perishable commodities. As for as post harvest losses are concerned those are almost 50% among many vegetables. There is no concept of packing, sterilizing and grading of vegetables. Due to which farmers have to sell them according to middleman’s choice. Fluctuation in the price market of vegetables are also due to this reason as vegetables are just vendor s commodity, there is no concept to sell them at stores.
If such type of arrangement are made and then farmers are asked to change their priorities in vegetable production, then there might be a change could be possible in existing agricultural set-up. This system has not capability to feed growing population of Pakistan. Low yield problem in many agricultural products forced us to import many agricultural commodities from our neighboring country. Being an agriculturist I feel sorry for exporting Garlic, Onion, and other agricultural commodities as, our soils have potential to grow all sort of these imported products.
But lack of interest in cultivation of many vegetables and herbs, due to priority of mono-cropping pattern of cultivation, our farmers continuously degrading our position in diversity of home products. Change in traditional set of agricultural set up is necessary for more and more production, but it cannot be practiced till the relevant markets in relevant areas would not be developed. Govt should establish there own centers for purchase or price control in particular area of crop or Govt should manage to avoid unnecessary benefits taken by middleman. A strong network to market horticultural products and management to make them store products rather than vendor’s products, so their shelf life may increase and they can attain a balance price almost whole year in market.
By: Muhammad Ramzan Rafique (MSc (Hons) Agriculture)