China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) giving opportunities to collaborate in the social sector, substantial emphasis needs be laid on the development of the country’s agriculture sector, which offers huge prospects of growth and trade for food security.
A policy dialogue on “National Agriculture and Food Security in Pakistan” organized by Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) in collaboration with Pakistan Agriculture Scientists Forum (PAS Forum) in Islamabad.
The session was addressed by Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) Dr Muhammad Azeem Khan, chairman, vice chancellor, University of Haripur and ex-chairman, Pakistan Council for Science and Technology (PCST) Professor Dr Anwar-ul-Hasan Gilani, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad Professor Dr Amanullah Malik, Executive President IPS Khalid Rahman and president, PAS Forum Dr Abdul Wakeel.
Dr Azeem Khan giving an overview of agriculture sector of Pakistan and emphasized the need of enhancing productivity of various potential sub sectors of agriculture, not only with an aim to address the country’s food security concerns, but also to alleviate it for international trade.
He regretted that Pakistan was a food exporting country till 2013 but became a food importing country thereafter. However, he observed that the second phase of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor offers a good opportunity to help the agriculture sector to recover, but the onus largely lies with the nation to set targets and strategies carefully in order to benefit from the forthcoming opportunities.
He highlighted that combinations of different commodities and products being produced alongside the CPEC routes boast significant prospects in this regard. There is a huge potential for the production and export of fodder, edible oils and palm oil, whereas pulses and oil seeds are some other lucrative areas to invest in.
He also spoke fervently about the prevalent state of malnutrition in Pakistan, terming it unprecedentedly high while maintaining that a nutritionally food secure Pakistan should be the country’s top most goal.
Professor Dr Amanullah Malik spoke about potentials and opportunities for Pakistan’s agricultural sector in relevance to CPEC mega projects.
He mentioned several agriculture items in which Pakistan could enjoy a competitive advantage over the rest of the world, especially when it comes to China.
He further said that China is the world’s biggest farm produce importer, with its imports making up to 10 % of global farm produce trade. The country is a net importer of bulk agriculture products and there has been rapid growth in its imports from Belt and Road countries off-late.
The expert called for immediate measures such as making crops nutritive and resilient to climate change, rescuing of more farmland, empowering of small landholders, deurbanization, preservation of water, recycling of crop/livestock waste and saving of food through public awareness drives if Pakistan is to answer its rising food security threats.