FAISALABAD: Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhar Imam said that focus on agricultural economy has yielded positive results.
However, he added, we must switch over to high-value crops to secure space in the global food markets.
Talking to the media during his visit to the University of Agriculture Faisalabad (UAF) on Saturday, he said that education and research were major components to increase per acre yield. He said the government was focusing on science and technology as the major nations were harvesting its benefits in a big way. He regretted that Pakistan was facing food security, malnutrition and poverty despite being an agrarian country.
He said the UAF was one of the oldest agriculture related institute and the government wanted to avail its expertise to improve the lifestyle of people linked with farming. He said that this year we have substantial increase in the production of three major corps. We have harvested a bumper wheat crop of 27.5 million tons, while rice and maize production also stood at 8.4 million tons each.
He said that cotton production had gradually decreased in the last three, four years due to multiple reasons. One reason was its cultivation on less area, as farmers were not getting good profit on it. In order to reverse the process, the government fixed its support price at Rs 5000 per 40-kg, which would also attract farmers to sow this crop on maximum land.
He said: “We are expecting to pick 8.5 million bales of cotton this year from Sindh and Punjab. It may be more than our estimation and Pakistan could export it instead of its import”. He said that cotton had 60 per cent share in country’s export. Hence the government was making serious endeavours to increase its yield.
He said that seed shortage was a major problem of the country. “We need 1,100,000-ton seeds of different crops every year to plough 22 million acres of land. He said wheat sowing would start after seven weeks and we have 530,000-ton certified seed for it. “Out of it, 160,000-ton seed has resistance against rusting.” Pakistan is expected to harvest bumper crops next year.
He said Punjab, in collaboration with other provinces, was discussing a comprehensive strategy to change the current agriculture mechanism toward high-value crops. He said that livestock had 60 per cent share in our agriculture and for its improvement, the government was helping farmers to resolve their breeding, feeding animal health problems.
Fakhar Imam said the government wanted to improve the quality of research and in this connection, he visited research centres of Rahim Yar Khan, Sadiq Abad, Lodhran and Vehari. “I have talked to scientists as to how we can help our farmers increase per acre yield of different crops,” added the minister. He said that the government had launched Rs 170 billion on-farm water management project and it would have salutary impact on different crops.
He said that he had a meeting with Chinese ambassador and discussed benefiting from the Chinese technology. In this connection, we would also ink two memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with Chinese authorities soon. He said the Chinese scientists had excelled in diffident sectors and we wanted they interact with our scientists and improve the research work in our institutions. He said growers could get interest-free loans up to Rs 150,000. He said Pakistan was exporting fruits and vegetables worth $700 million earlier, which had increased now to $800 million. He said citrus export increased from 350,000 to 462,000 tons.