Food and Agriculture Challenges.
by: Shahid Raza is an Entrepreneur, Educationist, Writer & Renowned multi-disciplinary Researcher
The population increase is expected to increase the demand for dairy and related goods and resources.
Pakistan is blessed with abundant natural resources, especially agricultural resources. Agriculture provides 16 per cent employment in the manufacturing sector and contributes 18.9 percent to GDP and absorbs 42.3 percent of the labour force. It is an important source of foreign exchange earnings and speeds up growth in other sectors of the economy. Pakistan is a major global player in agriculture production: the top fifth global producer of cotton, mangoes, milk, dates, and pine nuts; the top tenth global producer of sugarcane, meat, and wheat and the top fifteenth global producer of rice and citrus.
Leading sub-sectors of agriculture of Pakistan include crops, livestock, forestry, fisheries, and food processing with 8.26 million farms in the country with an average of 90 per cent of farms being small. The food processing industry includes value-added and frozen food processing sectors, edible oil and fat processing plants, bakery and confectionary plants, and beverages production units. This industry is concentrated in Punjab (60 percent) followed by Sindh (30 percent) and is mainly catering to urban households. The demand for processed food will be on the higher side over time. Domestic demand for food and beverages is growing day by day.
There is great investment potential in fruits and vegetables. Citrus has especially frozen concentrated orange juices has a great potential of export to Europe, the US, Japan, and China. Mangoes, especially mango pulp and dried mango products, have great potential not only for investment opportunities but also for export to several countries in the world. Potatoes are the major crop that has the potential of earning foreign exchange. Several by-products of potatoes including dehydrated potato flakes and potato powder has not only an investment potential but also export to the Middle East, Far East, China, and many neighbouring countries.
Livestock is one of the major and largest sub-sectors in agriculture and can play an important role in the foreign exchange of the country. This sector is playing a lead on the economic growth, food security, and poverty alleviation in the country. This sector has already surpassed the crop sub-sectors and contributed 60 per cent to the overall agriculture and more than 11 per cent to the GDP during 2019-20. There is a great potential for investment in the livestock and dairy sector, especially in value-added products. The dairy industry in Pakistan needs proper attention and care.
The population increase is expected to increase the demand for dairy and related goods and resources. Meat processing sector with high-value addition and exporting potential demands investment with long-term planning. The poultry sector is one of the major sub-sectors of the livestock sector and this sector is progressing with impressive growth with a rate of eight per cent per annum but value addition products need due attention. Fish and fish products are a great source of livelihood for the coastal inhabitants. This “Blue Revolution” and “Blue Growth” with value-added products demands serious efforts and steps to improve the fisheries sector and its exports.
Edible oil, especially olive oil, is being imported in large quantities and there is a great demand for olive oil in Pakistan and neighbouring countries. Key production areas, especially the Pothohar region, are considered as “Olive valley,” which demands investment with proper attention and care.
China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a game-changer and an immense opportunity to uplift the food and agriculture of Pakistan by adapting CPEC Phase II (industrial cooperation for collaboration between China and Pakistan with a focus on the value-addition of agriculture products through innovative methods). Under CPEC, the main focus should be on evolving and creating opportunities for high value-added product export to China and neighbouring countries. For this purpose, Pakistan needs to have better production capacity through development for farmers via scientific techniques.
Collaborations and ventures between the two countries under the umbrella of CPEC will bring Chinese experts, scientists, researchers, and businessmen to develop collaboration and cooperation to uplift. This important sector is considered as the backbone of Pakistan for food security and the economy of Pakistan. Foreign investment in the food processing sector in Pakistan can beverage the trade routes and special economic zone including Rashakai Economic Zone, Boston special economic zone, Allama Iqbal Industrial City, and Moqpondass.
Agriculture is the real strength and backbone of Pakistan’s economy having a major share in the GDP and providing basic raw materials for several value-added sectors and industries. Agriculture research and development demands a hostile strategy and brand-based real change in the policy and economic context with long-term planning with utmost dedication and commitment. Policymakers and all stakeholders need to redesign and rethink interventions for food security and agriculture to get real benefits from CPEC phase II i.e., industrial cooperation. Pakistan can face severe water shortage in the coming years if water is not stored during the monsoon, which will ultimately affect agriculture production.
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