Pakistan’s agriculture sector plays a central role in the economy as it contributes 18. 9 percent to gross domestic product (GDP) and absorbs 42.3 percent of the labor force. Pakistan’s food import bill grew by 53.98 percent to $7.550 billion during the fiscal year 2021. The government had to import sugar, wheat, palm oil, and pulses to bridge the shortfall in domestic production. These agricultural items can be produced in Pakistan but are not enough to fulfill domestic demand. Pakistan is facing a huge current account deficit, hence, cannot afford to larger current account deficit.
Therefore, it needs to find an effective solution to boost its domestic agriculture production by resolving the problems faced by farmers in Pakistan, to save precious foreign reserves, and provide food security.
However, the problems that hinder the plan of increasing agricultural production are the following.
Lack of irrigation facilities
Cultivable land that is irrigatable is only Pakistan has 28 percent, compared to 80 percent in India. This is because of the lack of an efficient water management system and poor infrastructure. Million tons of water are dumped into the Arabian sea without utilizing it.
Lack of post-harvest infrastructure
The farmers are unable to store agricultural goods for a long time without them going to waste due to a lack of cold storage and storage facilities. They are compelled to sell them at a lower than the actual market price. Which forces the government to import more agricultural goods in the off-season.
Unavailability of electricity
Due to the extremely hot weather in Pakistan, the crops need a high amount of irrigation to grow, but due to the lack of irrigation infrastructure, the farmers must use tube wells to water their crops. However, electricity is not available to them 24/7 and fuel is costly.
Exhaustion of soil
Pakistan’s soils have been used for growing crops for thousands of years without caring much for replenishing. This has led to depletion and exhaustion of soils resulting in their low productivity. The average yield of almost all the crops is one of the lowest in the world. It has been estimated that about 70 percent of the growth in agricultural production can be attributed to increased fertilizer application. Which most of the farmers cannot afford.
Scarcity of Capital
The role of capital input is becoming more and more important with the advancement of farm technology. The farmers in Pakistan do not possess advance capital to increase their crop produce effectively, they are still using the traditional methods of farming.
The following are some ways in which the State of Pakistan can help solve some of the issues faced by farmers to enable our agricultural sector to reach its full potential.
- Invest more in the projects of irrigation such as the Kachhi and Jalalpur canals to increase the cultivation land in Pakistan.
- Provides storage facilities to the farmers near their fields. Rural Storage Centres serve the economic interests of the farming community.
- The supply of electricity to farmers must be ensured by the government.
- The farmers should be given subsidies on fertilizers to promote their use.
- The government should educate and provide loans on easy terms to the farmers, to purchase agricultural machinery.
The problems faced by the farmers cannot be solved immediately but the government needs to come up with a long-term agriculture reform plan. Which could transform the agriculture sector like the green revolution of 1960’s did. The issue of food security should not be ignored and treated a major emergency, as it is crucial for the national trust and survival of Pakistan.