About 70 per cent people are living in rural areas of Pakistan and are directly involved in agricultural activities. There are two crops in Pakistan i.e. Rabi and Kharif.
Major crops of Pakistan are wheat, rice, maize, cotton and sugar cane. These major crops contributed 7.7 per cent last year against the set target of 4.5 per cent. Minor crops are canola, onions, mangoes and pulses which contributed 3.6 per cent as there was no virus attack last year. Fishery and Forestry contributes 16.6 per cent and 8.8 per cent respectively.
Though the agricultural sector is facing problems in Pakistan yet the major chunk of money comes from this sector. Following are the major causes of agricultural problems in Pakistan which disturb the agricultural growth or development in Pakistan.
Firstly, no mechanism has been adopted to eradicate the soil erosion and even after harvesting nothing is done to improve or restore the soil energy. Therefore, the fertility of soil is decreasing day by day. The thickness of fertile layer of soil in Pakistan is more than 6 inches but the average yield is lower than other countries where layer of fertile soil is only 4 inches.
Secondly, water wastage is very high in our country. The archaic method of flood irrigation is still in practice in whole of the country which wastes almost 50 to 60 per cent of water. A new irrigation system called drip irrigation system has been introduced in many parts of the world. This not only saves water but also gives proper quantity of water according to the needs of plants.
Thirdly, owing to old methods of cultivation and harvesting, Pakistan has low per acre yield. Whereas Nepal, India and Bangladesh are using modern scientific methods to increase their yield.
Fourthly, the small farmers are increasing in our country as the lands are dividing generation by generation. So, there are large number of farmers who own only 4 acres of land. These small farmers do not get credit facilities to purchase seeds, pesticides, fertilizers etc. Additionally, a large area of land is owned by feudals and the farmers who work on their lands, are just tenants.
Fifthly, water logging and salinity is increasing day by day. No effective measures have been taken to curb it. As the storage capacity of the dams is decreasing so the water availability per acre is also decreasing. Therefore, the farmers are installing more and more tube wells to irrigate their crops. This is why salinity is becoming the major issue in most parts of Punjab and Sindh.
Sixthly, focusing more on land, crops and yield problems the man behind the plough is always ignored. While formulating the 5 or 10 years plan, no emphasize has been laid on the importance of solving the problems of farmers. Most of the farmers are illiterate, poor and ignorant. In this wake the loans issued by ADBP or other banks are used by them in other fields like repayment of debts, marriage of daughters etc, in spite of its befitting use in agricultural sector.
Pakistan is rich in fertile land yet the land is being wasted in different ways. About 79.6 per cent million hectors of land is culturable whereas only 20.43 per cent million hectors is cultivated.
Monopoly of foreign companies: The pesticides companies are sorting partnership with “World Bank”. These companies are selling adulterated but expensive pesticides to a poor farmer thus leaving him helpless. These pesticides are not only hazardous for health but also a filling the pockets of companies. By moving according to World Bank these companies are gaining their own aims. Moreover there is a conflict of interests.
About 91 per cent of genetically engineered (GE) seeds is made and owned by one US Company called Monsanto. The vast majority of consumers around the world are against GE foods and crop as GE has been associated with health risks, loss of biodiversity, increased use of toxic weed killers and other environmental problems. 85% of GE crops are concentrated in just 3 countries i.e. United States, Argentina and Canada. Globally G.E crops cover less than one percent of arable land. Farmer around the world have experienced problems with Monsantos BT cotton.
This cotton seed does not show any resistance against virus attacks and needs 8 months to give yield thus no other crop can be cultivated on that land. This seed of cotton needs more water. Therefore, Pakistan had asked Monsanto to provide seeds which consume less water as Pakistan is moving towards the abyss of water shortage. It is a notorious organization that took the farmers to courts many times as it did not give ownership right to farmers to preserve seed. Even the seed of harvested crop cannot be used again for cultivation. Monopoly of Monsanto is clear when it is selling seed at RS 1700 per kg to Pakistan and RS 700 per kg to India.
Non-comprehensive Policies Of Pakistan: About Rs 18 billion in budget was allocated for agricultural sector of Pakistan but the withdrawal of subsidy on pesticides and electricity on the conditions of IMF has done serious damage to this sector. Whereas America and European Union are giving a huge amount of subsidy to their farmers and that is a greatest hurdle in the implementation of WTO rules.
Solutions for agricultural problems in Pakistan:
Feudalism should be abolished and lands should be allotted to poor farmers. This will enhance the productivity and per acre yield of all the crops in Pakistan. Taxes should be levied on Agricultural income but not without devising limit of land holding. Otherwise it would directly affect poor farmers.
A new agricultural policy must be framed in which following steps should be focused on.
- Productivity enhancement programme must be constituted to adjust and support prices.
- Different Agricultural zones should be introduced. As Multan in famous for its Mangoes and citrus fruits so it must be made Mango, citrus zone by which Perishable products should be exported. This would enhance agro based industry and increase foreign reserves. Pakistan Agricultural storage and Services Corporation needs to take steps in this regard.
- Surplus vegetables and fruits must be exported. A Rs 39 million scheme has been approved for the current fiscal year for establishment of agro export processing zone for fruits, vegetables and flowers. This will also help in commercializing agriculture.
- Latest machinery should be provided to the farmers to increase the per acre yield. This provision should be on easy installments so that the farmers can avoid the burden of loans. If possible subsidy should be given by the government of modern machinery.
- More dams should be constructed on Indus, Jehlum and Chenab rivers. This will enhance the storage capacity of water and reduce the per acre cost of all the crops. This step will also reduce the salinity chances of the lands as less tubewell water will be flooded to the lands which cause salinity.