LAHORE – The speakers at a workshop have stressed the need for efficient and continuous credit services with a view to improve productivity and wealth creation for smallholder farmers .
They said despite the increase in sources of formal and informal agricultural financing in recent years, smallholders still have limited access to credit in Pakistan.
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This seminar was organised by The University of Queensland, Australia and Agahe Pakistan. The event aimed to share the preliminary findings of study funded by the Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research (ACIAR). This project is led by a young Pakistani economist Dr Shabbir Ahmad who is working as research fellow at Business School, The University of Queensland.
This event was attended by Finance Minister of Punjab Dr Aisha Ghaus Pasha, Australian High Commissioner Margaret Adamson, Pakistan High Commissioner for Australia Naela Chohan and Secretary Punjab agriculture. This event brought policy makers, financial institutions, NGOs and many other stakeholders together and provide them the opportunity to meet and share their experience and research interests in agriculture financing.
Addressing the event, Provincial Minister for Finance Dr Aisha Ghous Pasha said that government of the Punjab is going the extra miles to face the most critical challenge in financial sector that is “Financial Inclusion.
“For this purpose we have launched many credit schemes not only in agriculture sector but also in other zones to endorse the SMEs. We are also engaging the private sector for micro financing of small formers. The government of Punjab under the Interest Free Agri. E-Credit Scheme will provide interest free loans to 500,000 farmers in all districts across Punjabprovince through selected banks and other financial institutes.”
She said that the objective of the Interest free Agri. E-Credit Scheme is to reduce the cost of production for these marginalized farmers and to increase the outreach of formal and digital financial services to meet the agenda of financial inclusion.
Dr Aisha Ghous Pasha said that agriculture is a significant contributor to Pakistan’s economy, accounting for more than 20 percent of our GDP and employing more than 40 percent of our labour force. Despite having huge potential to contribute to economic development and addressing food security issues, the agricultural sector faces significant challenges. In addition, food security has become core to ‘Pakistan Vision 2025’ and ‘Punjab Growth Strategy 2018’ policy agenda that embrace new directions to raise productivity of the horticultural sector.
Margaret Adamson admired the positive diplomat relationship between Pakistan and Australia. She said that Australia is not only providing educational scholarships but also investing other sectors including employment generation and women empowerment.