Pakistan has a semi-industrialized economy with a well-integrated sector of agriculture. Agriculture being vital sector of Pakistan’s economy has great potential of its growth. The sector contributes approx. 21 percent to the country’s GDP. Out of the total area of 79.6 million hectares, 21.2 million hectares are cultivated; the rest of the territory is rangelands. Cropped area constitutes 23.8 million hectares, forests – 4.21 million hectares. Almost 80 percent of the cultivated area is irrigated.
If given priority Pakistan can be in top ten producers of wheat, cotton, sugarcane, mango, dates, kinnow oranges, and rice in the world. We have shortage of water reservoirs as increasing population place high demands on Pakistan’s water resources. Pakistan is focused on overcoming this area and construction of Diamer-Bhasha dam project and other reservoirs is in process. Once water is made available, improvement in agriculture sector will be observed.
Agriculture sector is affected due to intermittent water supply, absence of utilization of modern techniques, lack of new seed varieties, and availability of pesticides and urea. Another reason for its decline is lack of proper cold storage and warehousing facilities and communication between urban and rural areas.
If we concentrate on this sector by educating farmers with new techniques, ample water and provision of other resources, a considerable increase can be achieved and can also contribute to massive increase in exports.
China is the world’s largest importer of agricultural product as being heavily populated. Peanuts, grapes, olive, citrus, mango, tomato, guava, strawberry, potatoes are some of the items which are in great demand in China. If overall agricultural system is improved and modernized we can start exports in few years.
Chine Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) holds extreme significance in economic growth of Pakistan. The Gwadar Port is a deep-sea port situated on the Arabian Sea at Gwadar in Balochistan province. CPEC will connect Gwadar to the Chinese border via two routes — eastern route and western route.
The CPEC eastern route will pass through Makran coastal highway, Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Multan, Lahore, Islamabad, Mansehra, Thakot, Raikot to Khunjarab while the CPEC western route will pass through Gwadar, Turbat, Bismah, Surab, Qalat, Quetta, Zhob, Dera Ismail Khan, Bannu, Kohat, Peshawar and Islamabad onward.
CPEC will significantly help in ensuring wide range of development, especially targeting socio-economic development of less-developed areas of the country. Agricultural productivity, rural prosperity and farmer’s livelihood can be improved giving priority to this sector.
Agricultural development is one of the seven areas of cooperation under CPEC, China is specifically interested to explore areas like cotton productivity, efficient irrigation and post-harvest infrastructure along the CPEC route.
Long Term Plan of CPEC (2017-30) with respect to agriculture includes:
- Strengthen the upgrading of agricultural infrastructure in the regions along the CPEC.
- Promote the construction of water-saving modern agricultural zones, and increase the development and remediation of medium- and low-yielding land to achieve efficient use of resources.
- Strengthen drip irrigation technology for water efficiency.
- Strengthen cooperation in the fields such as crop farming, livestock breeding, forestry and food growing and aquatic and Fishery in the regions along the CPEC.
- Improve post-harvest handling, storage and transportation of agricultural, products, and innovate in marketing and sales models.
- Improve water resources operation and management, strengthen development of pastoral areas and desert, and promote application of remote sensing technology.
Pak-China cooperation will lead to strengthening of production of agriculture inputs particularly pesticides, fertilizer, machinery and support services including agriculture education and research. They intend to collaborate in forestry, horticulture, Fisheries and livestock medicines and vaccines and strengthen production of horticulture products.Agriculture is a major component of Pakistan’s economy, if incorporated will increase Pakistan’s agricultural produce, and explore export opportunities in China. It will also be in interest of Chinese government to bring investment in the neglected agriculture sector and export surplus produce to feed the growing Chinese population. Joint ventures, value addition, cold chain management for fruits and vegetables, marketing and branding would help Pakistan overcome weaknesses and increase agriculture exports to China and other countries.
Pak-China agricultural cooperation has to focus on the vertical increase in productivity of existing crops, transfer of knowledge and technologies, seed and plant protection as well as disease control.
CPEC will surely help in boosting the growth of the agriculture sector and making CPEC a ‘game changer’ for Pakistan’s economy, development of infrastructure in any shape leads to growth in GDP derived from agriculture sector.
By improving this sector Pak-China will achieve:
- Food autonomy;
- Benefitting farmers and rural communities;
- Smarter food production and yields;
- Biodiversity conservation;
- Sustainable soil health and cleaner water;
- Ecological pest management; and resilient food systems.
We are looking forward in development of Agriculture sector to meet our needs and benefiting the country by exporting excess amounts.
Ruqayya Khan: Lahore