Bane of agricultural sector
By: Adnan Falak
has been one of the worst years for the agricultural sector
It witnessed floods,
inundating swathes of croplands, culminating in a price
crash of at least two major crops, and causing the loss of
billions to the agricultural sector.
natural disasters , lack of regulation and predatory
profiteering are draining the lifeblood from our
Left unchecked, this
situation can undermine our near self- sufficiency in food
production, making it difficult to feed a population of 200
million, which is growing at a rate higher than average in
No other major area of our
economy is as badly managed as the agricultural sector. It
is the single largest sector, contributing 22% to our
national income, and employing nearly half of the countryís
However, in terms of
efficiency, it is nowhere near international standards.
At the heart of this
malfunction lies seasonal flooding, water crisis, derelict
agricultural departments, and bad economic policies.
glacial melting and altering rainfall patterns are posing
serious challenges to growers, subjecting some areas to
floods, while creating drought like conditions in others.
Flood is a calamity that hits
us perennially, destroying farm lands and infrastructure.
Despite its regular occurrence, we have failed to adopt
effective flood prevention measures.
With environmental change,
water stress has emerged as another issue having serious
repercussions for the agricultural sector.
Pakistan is already a water
stressed nation. Owing to mismanagement, nearly 50 percent
of our water is lost before reaching the farm gate and
another 15 percent on the farm.
It is not hard to imagine
that in the coming years, water will emerge as our
This situation is further aggravated by the governmentís
weak regulatory and executive authority.
For the agricultural sector,
the executive and regulatory functions are performed by
provincial agricultural departments, whose officials could
have made a difference had they remained in contact with the
Unfortunately today, most
farmers complain of the neglect by the agricultural
officers, who rarely visit fields, caring little for the
issues dogging the growers.
The negligence of the
agricultural department doesnít end there. It has completely
failed to regulate the agricultural inputs market.
Owing to weak oversight,
markets are flooded with low quality seed, pesticides and
fertilizers, available at exorbitant prices.
Use of such products affects
the farmerís per acre yield, often causing his entire crop
Vagaries of weather and the negligence of government
officials is accompanied by the rising prices of inputs. For
the last few years, the rates of main crops have not risen
in par with the prices of inputs.
According to some estimates,
the prices of seeds, fertilizers and pesticides have
increased by more than 100 percent, whereas crop prices have
increased at most 40 percent or so.
The price of fertilizer alone
has experienced a three fold increase over the last few
years. As sowing season sets in, the artificial shortage of
fertilizers is created to beef up prices.
Exploitative pricing is
negatively affecting fertilizer use, with the potential to
undermine agricultural productivity.
Agriculture is the backbone of our national economy. Even
our industry heavily depends upon the raw material produced
as agricultural commodities.
Agricultureís relevance to
food security makes it an indispensable element of our
To address this situation, the government should ensure that
quality agricultural inputs are available at reasonable
prices. The prices of fertilizers have to be brought down
and no firm should be allowed to plunder farmers.
Officials of the agricultural
department should provide necessary guidance to the farmers,
acting as conduits of technology dissemination.
Environmental challenges perhaps require the most judicious
response. Itís impossible to escape from natural disasters
but timely planning, better preparation and a swift response
can play an important role in containing the damage.
Similarly, better management
of water resources can reduce water stress.
To feed our rising population, we need to organize the
agricultural sector along modern lines, giving our growers
cost effective means and the latest agricultural know how.
Such a policy can spur agricultural output, uplifting
millions out of poverty.