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Agri Overview 

Agriculture: two years' comparison
Sirajul-Hasan

Agriculture, which is the backbone of Pakistan's economy, usually contributing 25-27 per cent to the GDP, failed to give the desired support to the national economy during the FY 2000-01, due to the lower than the targeted production of cotton, rice, sugarcane and wheat, caused by the acute shortage of irrigation water throughout the country.

An intense look on the growth of agriculture in the FY 2000-01, reveals that agriculture sector could not meet the 2.6 per cent growth target and ended the year with the negative growth of 2.5 per cent. This reversal was mostly due to the scarcity of irrigation water, that persisted both in the Kharif and Rabi seasons.

Consequently, the major crops suffered badly. Additionally, the performance of the fisheries also remained subdued on account of the low water levels in rivers, lakes reservoirs and dams. In absolute terms, the loss due to a decline in value addition by agriculture stood at PRs 4.2 billion during the year. This limited the increase in value addition in GDP to PRs 16.6 billion.

Agriculture is the leading indicator of the growth in GDP, but its internal composition is undergoing a change. Given the vulnerability to natural vagaries, the crops sub-sector is gradually losing its share in agriculture. It declined from 65.1 per cent in the FY 91, to 57.3 per cent in the FY 01. On the contrary, the share of livestock is continuously rising. It grew to 17.7 per cent in the FY 01, from 29.8 per cent in the FY 91, and its share in GDP improved from 7.6 per cent to 9.3 per cent in the same period. This shift is beneficial, as most of this domestic food requirements shall meet indigenously with a sizeable surplus being left for export.

During the FY 01, the area under cultivation by major crops registered a second decline of 4.4 per cent as compared to last year. Although, the drought conditions started a year ago, depicting a fall of 2.0 per cent in the area under the Kharif crops, this was compensated by a 1.2 per cent increase under the Rabi crops, primarily wheat. This boost in the wheat crop, followed a campaign launched by the government in the FY 00 to grow more wheat by increasing the procurement by 25 per cent and releasing more water for irrigation from dams. Some steps could not be repeated in the FY 01.

Crops position:

Major crops posted a negative growth of 10.5 per cent during the FY 2000-01. Production of food grains (wheat, rice, bajra, jawar, maize and barley decreased by 8.5 per cent, while sugarcane, cotton and mustard declined by 5.9 per cent, 4.3 per cent and 8.1 per cent respectively. Value added by four major crops - wheat, rice, sugarcane and cotton which, make up 36 per cent of agriculture, dropped by 12.2 per cent in contrast to a sharp rise of 17.6 per cent last year. The rainfall land, constituting of about 16 per cent of the total cropped area by wheat, also added to the overall decline in the yield.

Minor crops with 17.0 per cent share in agriculture and 4.2 per cent share in GDP registered a positive growth of 1.1 per cent during the FY 01, against a decline of 9.1 per cent in the previous year. Growth in individual crops showed a mixed trend. Production of oilseeds declined by 3.4 per cent, while that of pulses increased by 6.2 per cent. Potatoes and onions declined by 9.2 per cent and 9.7 per cent respectively.

Livestock

It made-up around 37.7 per cent of agriculture and 9.3 per cent of GDP in the FY 2001-02, on the basis of a doubling of its growth rate (4.8 per cent), as compared to last year's. Being the second largest contributor to agriculture after crops, its performance thus compensated to some external fall in agricultural production. With strong growth in poultry products, (white meat and eggs), all other components of livestock, both in terms of population and products, also showed positive growth.

The strong performance of minor crops and livestock indicate the robust growth potential, particularly for exports. Being less land intensive and comprising of a diversified output basket, these two sub-sectors have attracted sufficient interest in terms of corporate farming. With the emergence of a thriving specialised market in the West and Japan for organically produced food, the interest is cultivated by developing organic farming method in Pakistan.

Potential of organic farming

With a variety of farm lands and farming practice, Pakistan has a vast opportunity to avail the benefit of the emerging global demand for organically produced food items. In organic farming, agriculture produce is obtained without using chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). In organic farming, only those kinds of fertilizers and pesticides may be used which are not liable to kill or reduce the activity of soil organism.

With the intense use of labour and less of capital, organic farming is characterised as "low input and low output farming", yet with a high concern for the quality of produce. With domestic environments conducive to producing organic vegetables, fruits and livestock products, Pakistan can be introduced as a supplier of organic food items by launching a powerful marketing campaign in the international market. This would provide a good opportunity of maximising its foreign exchange earnings through non-traditional exports, because organically produced food items fetch higher prices than their inorganic counterparts.

This year's prospects

With the favourable weather conditions already started showing up in the first two months of this year, there is every likelihood of a better performance of agriculture than the last year.
 

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