Tuesday Jan 28, 2020
ISLAMABAD: As the second phase of the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) begins, substantial emphasis needs be laid on the development of the agriculture sector in Pakistan, which offers huge prospects of growth, experts said on Monday, reported The News.
The message emerged from a policy dialogue on ‘National Agriculture and Food Security in Pakistan’, which was held at Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) here in collaboration with Pakistan Agriculture Scientists Forum (PAS Forum) on Monday.
CPEC is a collection of infrastructure projects aimed at improving Pakistan’s connectivity not only within itself and China, but with over 60 other countries, which are part of the land route of China's Belt and Road Initiative involving infrastructure development and investments.
The session on Monday was addressed by Muhammad Azeem Khan, Chairman Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC), Anwar-ul-Hasan Gilani, Vice Chancellor University of Haripur, and Amanullah Malik from the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, among others.
Presenting an overview of Pakistan’s agriculture sector, Azeem Khan emphasized the need of enhancing productivity of various potential sub sectors of agriculture, not only with an aim to address the country’s food security concerns, but also to alleviate it for international trade.
"Pakistan was a food exporting country till 2013 but became a food importing country thereafter. However, the second phase of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor offers a good opportunity to help the agriculture sector to recover," he said on the occasion.
The PARC chairman was all for alleviating the agriculture sector via business-oriented model, which in his opinion, could only be done through value addition i.e. converting raw materials into standard commercial products and brands.
"Combinations of different commodities and products being produced alongside the CPEC routes boost significant prospects in this regard. There is a huge potential for the production and export of fodder, edible oils and palm oil, as well as pulses and oil seeds," he noted.
The speaker, however, pointed out that the post-harvest losses still remain a concern in the country, before adding that the solution lies in careful measures taken in the areas of production, diversification, post-harvest handling, processing, certification, and value addition.
Khan also spoke fervently about the prevalent state of malnutrition in Pakistan, terming it unprecedentedly high while maintaining that a nutritionally food secure Pakistan should be the country’s top most goal.
Addressing the session, another expert, Amanullah Malik, spoke about potentials and opportunities for Pakistan’s agricultural sector in relevance to CPEC mega projects. "There are several agriculture items in which Pakistan could enjoy a competitive advantage over the rest of the world, especially when it comes to China," he said.
"China is the world’s biggest farm produce importer, with its imports making up to 10 % of global farm produce trade. The country is a net importer of bulk agriculture products and there has been rapid growth in its imports from Belt and Road countries off-late," he remarked.
"Pakistan too can target some of its exports to China such as soybean, barley, corn, wheat and cereals. Rice is the country’s major export to China but there is a lot more potential to it as well. In terms of fruit, cherries, grapes, mangoes, guavas and oranges are some of the products that can be looked at," he maintained.
He, however, cautioned that about 70% of China’s agriculture imports come from the USA, Brazil, South East Asia, European Union and Australia, and it will be very challenging, yet necessary, to raise the quality standards to compete with these countries.
"Pakistan is sorely lacking in utilizing technology for its agricultural requirements when compared to other countries," another expert said. "There is need to make use of modern technological systems and methods that could cope with present-day challenges," he noted.
Originally published in The News