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Agri Overview

Tilt towards agro business schools imperative                 Home
By Raza Kamal and Naseem Abbas

In the last decade business schools have mushroomed in the country without the realization if these graduates would find meaningful employment. The general argument cited is that supply will create its own demand ; quite the opposite of the accepted principle.

Tilt towards agro business schools imperative At the same time student community finds no assistance from any agency as to where the jobs would occur in the future. The obvious choice one makes if not ordained to become a doctor or an engineer is to join a business school.

This specialized education takes its direction from the western world without any thought whether it meets the national needs or otherwise. The orientation of students on graduation is to find an urban based job since the educational cost has reached disproportionate ratio that lesser modest options are not even examined. In such a hazy environment, we witness a glut of business graduates with supply surpassing the demand; MBAs employed as supervisors on petty remunerations.

The business education in Pakistan has only offered a very narrow scope concentrating on occupations in the urban sector mainly in the fields of manufacturing, banking and marketing of consumer/durable goods.

This is not in consonance with either our economy nor with the national resource base. However this is one class of professionals who are equipped with competencies and confidence to venture into entrepreneur ships in other sectors which are imperatives for our development.

Businesses should be created in zones where there is concentration of mass, needs and opportunities; therefore the case for agro-business schools. There has never been more need of integration of urban mind with rural effort to combat problems like poverty, unemployment and human resource development. The urban- rural divide can only be overcome if a strategic effort is planned to mesh the two categories.

This is a cogent possibility since our mainstay sector, agriculture is deteriorating everyday. Every year there is a downward trend in its contribution ratio to GDP; yield per acre remains stagnant which results in heavy imports of agricultural products.

Besides, all the reasons attributed for these failures, one important cause is the lack of investment in the human capital, stereotyped and mediocre policies and mismanagement in the agricultural sector.

The argument that adequate human and financial capital is being invested in the agricultural universities is not coherent for the reason that no output improvement is reflected; presently only 27 per cent of land is cultivated, an increase of only 42 per cent since 1965; growth less than three per cent every year.

Agricultural development means not only increase in productivity but also handling the product professionally i.e. marketing, distributing, exporting, conserving and improving its attributes. Professional skills needs to be attracted towards agriculture.

The first step should be in the direction of creating demand in agricultural sector. The agricultural sector is contributing only 24 per cent towards the GDP whereas it used to contribute 65 per cent in late 1960's. Presently 29 per cent of population forms part of the labour force (45 million heads); however 67 per cent of them resides in the rural area; 42 per cent are employed in the agriculture sector and nearly 60 per cent of employed force is engaged in this occupation.

Unemployment has crept to 8.27 per cent of the workforce which is mainly in the rural area. It is quite evident from these statistics that the critical mass of labour force by residence, by occupation and by unemployment is concentrated in the villages.

The ratio of rural population, vast tracts of land lying uncultivated and disproportionate managerial skills in the agricultural sector adequately supports the hypothesis that if demand is generated in this sector, supply will follow.

It is for the ministry of agriculture to examine this issue and generate employment to attract quality professionals towards agro- based businesses. It should build infra structural network to facilitate growth.

Some of the areas which need attention are liberating procurement and storage from government control, facilitating farmers in the usage of mechanized implements through micro financing and leasing, preventing spoilage of crop by encouraging extensive network of warehouses and storage, giving support to entrepreneurial activity to boost export potential specially in the area of farm products and live stock, better water management and land management documentation.

The quantum and quality of manpower employed in the sector needs to be reap praised. These measures will create job opportunities in this sector and attract better quality of human resource.

The argument that quick take- offs in economy is possible only through investments in manufacturing sector may not hold true for Pakistan. In our country agriculture plays a pivotal role in the economic growth. It is the base sector for the major industries like textile and sugar and provides raw material for many industrial products.

Any disturbance or calamity in the sector shakes the whole economy since majority of the population directly or indirectly depend upon it for their livelihood. Volatility in this sector cannot be permitted.

Pakistan is one of those fortunate countries where 82 per cent of cropped land is irrigated by a network of canals and rivers and the live stock population is fifth largest in the world. All that is needed is to harness these resources.

The policy to combat unemployment and poverty alleviation really means rehabilitating the rural sector; unless quality manpower is not inducted in this sector material innovation in planning and action will not appear.

The problems in the sector were tackled by setting up agricultural universities. So far only four such universities are functional. The focus of these universities is towards enhancing yield, research, and soil problems being faced by the tillers. Since the employment opening in the sector has remained stagnant over the past few decades the universities have been unable to attract good quality students.

Our agricultural universities have based programmes on the principle that the gap between ignorance and knowing is more important than the gap between knowing and doing. If we are aiming at bringing about a turnaround in this vital area there is a need to provide a dynamic learning environment not merely to fine-tune existing programmes.

A major conceptual and structural change is required supported by governmental policies transforming it from a narrowly oriented food production sector to a broadly societal activity involving management of resources that provides not only an increase in agricultural growth but also utilizes manpower which at the moment lies idle.

One possible option is to shift the tilt of business schools towards agricultural sector. It is opined that this paradigm shift is in consonance with national imperatives and would also alleviate the glut in the urban business.

The requirement of encouraging the development of a smoothly functioning market, through institutional and regulatory reforms will facilitate market efficiency and energize private sector activities.

A well-educated and energetic business professional can change the market through his expertise gained in a business school. These business graduates can develop a marketing system where the return to the farmer is not eroded by multiplicity of intermediaries, lack of market information, shortage of farm-to-market roads and fragmented markets. A fully accredited MBA degree in agri-business can make them effective change agents in the agro-enterprise sector where they can be:

* engaged in production and marketing of inputs like seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, farm machinery and livestock feeds;

* production, procurement, processing and marketing of outputs;

* provide services such as exports, commodity trading, rural banking insurances, logistics and water management;

Fisheries and livestock are also areas where professional expertise is required to add value to agriculture sector. The steady decline in both these areas can be part of curricula of the schools.

Government's incentives in this sector are noteworthy but are not properly disseminated to potential investors; exemption of sales tax, liberal debt financing, and import of breeding stock subject to meagre taxation and establishment of abattoirs are some measures unknown to most.

The volume and range of bank credit to the agriculture sector is increasing. It has to be managed by professionals who understand the mechanics of our agro based industry and the imperatives of banking industry.

The tilt of business schools towards agriculture is one strategic step which can ensure better human resource utilization and would also meet the national imperatives. Our agricultural base will contribute meaningfully and employment would be generated in the rural areas.

Courtesy: The DAWN

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