CPEC & Agricultural Cooperation | By Dr Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan

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CPEC & Agricultural Cooperation

Second phase of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is going to start its phase-II in the country.

It assures to mainly focus on “social development” of the country having close cooperation and investments in agriculture, health, housing, hydro-energy generation and last but not least, formation of numerous befitting propositions in Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in the country.

Optimal utility of agriculture production ensures “food security” which has multiplier socio-economic and geopolitical effects. Booming population of Pakistan needs a “sustained” food supply chain in the country.

Moreover, harsh weather, unscientific farming system and expensive inputs of production has further marginalized the agriculture sector in the country.

There is a vast scope of bilateral Sino-Pak Agriculture Cooperation (SPAC) under the flagship project of CPEC which would boost per acre “agro-productivity” and institutionalize modern farming methods.

On its part, China has made “rural vitalization” a priority to promote growth in the countryside over the next five years. Initiatives in science and technology are being introduced in less developed rural areas to promote modern agriculture and the same may be replicated in Pakistan under CPEC phase-II.

According to the latest Chinese statistics (2021) over the last eight years, China has succeeded in rescuing 98.99 million people from acute poverty in rural areas. Now China is implementing “holistic strategies” to ensure that those who have been lifted out of poverty will not be snapped back into impoverishment through rural vitalization in an all-around manner during the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) period, safeguarding the sound development of modern agriculture and increasing income for farmers.

According to the Federal Agriculture Ministry of Pakistan (2018-2019) agriculture contributes 18.5-24 percent to Pakistan’s GDP and provides 38.5 percent of total jobs.

Moreover, plantation output accounts for 38.7 percent and livestock accounts for 57.79 percent. Thus, the agriculture sector is one of the main contributors of Pakistan’s GDP and its robust growth is the need of the hour.

So SPAC would gear up agriculture in the country in the days to come under the umbrella of CPEC phase-II.

Definitely, CPEC can align the development of food crops and that of the cash crops, to mutually reinforce farming and livestock husbandry, so that a virtuous circle could be formed in the country.

Critical analysis reveals that sea rice plantation cooperation may be a game changer in the agriculture sector of the country.

It may be promoted in coastal areas within the country.  Chinese agriculture expertise and support of scientific research institutes will be beneficial for its success.

It would be value-addition in the cash crops mix which can also absorb salt and ameliorate soil, thus is able to promote a virtuous ecological cycle.

In the ongoing mega projects of CPEC in the northern parts of Punjab and Sindh, promotion of agriculture modernization and industrialization of agricultural products for export purposes would be an innovative idea.

An ideal combination of advanced technology, and traditional practices would be great help for local farmers in the country. Successful model Netherlands tulip base in Pakistan has brightened the SPAC in the country.

Parallel to ongoing mega infrastructure projects of the CPEC, policy makers may promote/develop Islamic food industry parks, floral landscaping, leafy and fruity vegetables for their regional exports to GCC and MENA.

In this connection, Pakistan enjoys a good base for developing livestock husbandry. It accounts for 10-12 percent of total GDP, and 38 percent of total agricultural output volume which may also be included in the CPEC phase-II for the rapid growth of the agriculture sector in the country.

Pakistan has great potential even in milk production and its share of large livestock per capita is among the highest in Asia.

In this context, close cooperation in livestock husbandry and relevant deep processing projects may provide necessary industrial chain which may be exported to other countries in Asia and Middle East.

The SPAC would help both the brotherly countries ensure food security, improve livelihood, and contribute to the overall social-economic development.

Thus both the countries should extend their cooperation in agricultural production technology, project management, machinery and tools, and product consumption.

According to China Economic Net (CEN) the model project of the chilli farming project has planted 100 acres of chilli in Punjab in the first half of this year, and plans to grow 3000 acres altogether in the second half of this year by expanding to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh Province.

The SPAC aims at helping Pakistan improve its agricultural research sustainability as well as promoting the development of Pakistan’s export-oriented economy.

The CPEC will also help introduce more advanced agricultural production factors in Pakistan.

CPEC will further enhance value addition processing to help more Pakistani products up to the international standards, entering more markets globally. Now, rice, mango, citrus, dry nuts, honey and seafood, etc.,

from Pakistan are being exported to China. Next year Pakistani onion has the chance to enter the Chinese market as the two governments are dedicated to signing more protocols to let more Pakistani products like cherry, potato, etc., be exported to China.

Pakistan’s meat products have the greatest potential to be exported to the Chinese market because China is importing numerous meat products from all over the world, and the livestock sector in Pakistan is producing a lot of meat products.

Under CPEC more economic free zones may be built to attract more Chinese investment to encourage more Chinese enterprises to invest in building cold storage, cold logistics and food processing.

For the promotion of healthy livestock both the governments are negotiating about a memorandum of understating (MOU) in animal disease control to help Pakistan improve the livestock sector as well as lift Pakistan’s export of meat products.

The SPAC under CPEC may introduce intercropping techniques and technologies to grow two or more crops at the same time.

The prospects for adopting intercropping in Pakistan are bright in which ‘maize-soybean strip intercropping technology may play a vital role.

At present, Pakistan is importing about 1.7 to 1.9 million tonnes of soybeans from other countries.

By using this technology which greatly improves use efficiency of land, water and radiation, Pakistan may reduce imports by 76 percent via locally producing soybeans up to 0.9 to 1.3 million tonnes, without decreasing the production area of maize. Hopefully, it will create much more economic benefits for farmers as well as safeguard food security.

Being a prominent regional expert of CPEC & BRI, I endorse Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s plans to seek support from China to boost the agricultural sector of the country to ensure sustainable development and prosperity.

In this connection, China and Pakistan, in January 2021,  launched an online platform to collect and display information and achievements of agricultural and industrial cooperation between the two countries, aiming at enhancing bilateral cooperation under the CPEC in the two sectors.

There is great potential in the fields of seed industry, agricultural material and machinery, agricultural product processing, agricultural investment and supporting service systems such as warehousing, cold chain and logistics to promote the transformation and upgrading of the agricultural sector which should be tapped by both the countries as soon as possible in the flagship project of CPEC.

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