LAHORE: A 4-member World Bank team on Strengthening Markets for Agriculture & Rural Transformation in Punjab (SMART) Friday called on the LCCI President Almas Hyder and had a detailed meeting.
World Bank Mission was headed by Hans Johannes while Senior Communications Officer Ms. Flore Martinant de Preneuf, Communications Officer Ms. Mehreen Saeed and Irfan Razzaq were the other members of the delegation.
The World Bank Mission informed the LCCI President that the objective of the SMART program is to increase the productivity of crop and livestock farmers in Punjab.
Almas Hyder said that agriculture is a vital sector of Pakistan’s economy as it contributes 18.5% in GDP and provides employment to 38.5% of total labor force. Yet the growth rate of agriculture sector in 2018-19 was just 0.85%. He said that if Pakistan has to achieve a growth rate of 6-7% and wants to become a competitive economy in the region, the growth of agriculture sector needs to be enhanced.
He said that here is no genetic modification program to develop livestock sector. Genetic improvement is required in the livestock breeds to enhance the productivity of Dairy Sector.
He said that agriculture marketing laws should be amended so that large companies can procure agriculture commodities directly from the farmers rather than the middlemen.
The LCCI President said that Agriculture sector should be governed by free market. The role of Government should be restricted to being a regulator which ensures food security and not the buyer and seller of Agriculture Commodities.
He said that export laws for agriculture commodities need to be relaxed. There should be a freedom to export the surplus Agriculture commodities after catering to the local demand. The global buyers will then perceive Pakistan as an important Agriculture market.
The LCCI President said that agriculture also holds paramount importance as it provides not only food but also cotton, sugarcane, rice, oil seeds, meat and milk to various agro-based, small scale and large scale industries as a raw material. Keeping in view these facts, Agriculture needs broad based reforms on priority to increase the productivity of crop and livestock farmers while improving their climate resilience and fostering agribusiness development in Punjab.
“It is high time to address the chronic productivity deficit in agriculture and its associated sectors including livestock and dairy industries etc. We cannot overlook this fact that per hectare low crop yield has not improved for a long time rather it has sunk to one of the lowest levels in the world”, Almas Hyder added.
He said that major part of agriculture production especially fresh fruits and vegetables get wasted during the transportation period from farm to market which is estimated to be 30% to 40% – depending upon the type and perishability of commodities. Due to insufficient cold storage facilities, our farmers fail to fetch reasonable value of their crops. The network of cold storage should be expanded at nearby places of rural areas.
The LCCI President said that necessary arrangements should be made to improve seed provisioning mechanism as about three fourth of seeds are supplied to farmers by informal sector. Likewise, government needs to engage agriculture research institutes so that hybrid seeds could be made available to farmers at competitive rates.