by Qura tul ain Hafeez 30 August 2o18
Agriculture comprises a big chunk of Pakistan’s economy. A bulk of Pakistan’s population implicitly or explicitly relies on this sector. According to Pakistan’s Statistical Bureau, 24 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is contributed in the national economy through agricultural sector. It constitutes 43% of the labor force and is the most significant source of foreign exchange earnings. But unfortunately being an agrarian economy the foreign reserves earned through this sector are not as high as they should be. A couple of months back in early 2018 a report released by Pakistan Business Council (PBC) states that “Pakistan’s agricultural productivity ranges between 29% and 52%, far lower than the world’s best averages for major commodities”. Therefore, to be an agrarian economy in its real sense, there is a need for agricultural advancement in Pakistan.
Keeping in mind the need for agricultural advancement, the Government of Pakistan in collaboration with the Chinese firms has started different projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) for restructurings agriculture sector. Since its beginning, the agricultural progression has always been an essential aspect of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. However, this sector was not much addressed in the early harvest phase because it was more important in the start to first improve the infrastructure network and energy deficiency. Furthermore better infrastructure network and transport facilities in maneuvering products and goods. Similarly, energy is equally essential as transport for the promotion of agriculture growth.
Henceforth considering the importance of agriculture, in the second phase of the CPEC, the Long Term Plan discusses in detail the agriculture growth and development. Starting from production, processing, storage, and transportation, of agriculture goods, utilizing water assets, conservation and production of food, as well as land development, the LTP has prioritized the agricultural reforms.
Agriculture growth is another way of poverty alleviation. It is evident that the objective behind CPEC is to strengthen the weak economy of Pakistan. Pakistan’s financial system primarily relies on agriculture so once it is developed, it will bring in more economic benefits and will raise exports of agricultural goods. This would be worth mentioning here that China is the world’s largest importer of agricultural products with over $100 billion of food products. But unfortunately, Pakistan only shares 1% of food imports with China out of $2.93 billion. Therefore, making it an essential ingredient of CPEC will not only boost the Pakistan-China bilateral trade of agricultural products but will also provide an excellent international market for Pakistan.
Consequently, to bring prosperity, new research in agricultural products, along with enhancing per-acre yield, producing high value-added products and linking the farmers with economic corridor are specific measures that are being undertaken in the CPEC long-term plan. The ministry of national food security and research has adopted specific procedural standards for the growth of agriculture sector in Pakistan. Moreover, Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC) provides 30,000 solar systems to the agrarian communities for solar water pumping. Along with this China will set a fertilizer plant that will produce 800,000 tons per year. A meat processing plant in Sukkur with a yearly production capacity of 200,000 tons. China will also install vegetable processing plants with an annual output of 20,000 tons and a plant to process fruit juice and jam of 10,000 tons.
Focusing on the vision to upgrade Pakistan economy CPEC should further take steps like vegetable fruit production and value adding services of all the profit earning crops. Moreover, livestock production should also be given priority so that they generate revenue and enhance the livelihood of farmers. CPEC will be an inspiration and boon for the agricultural and trade community of Pakistan regarding the fresh economic openings thus directing towards favourable revenue incentives and significant improvements in lifestyle.