CPEC & Pakistan Agriculture Productivity
CHINA-Pakistan partnership can be a role model of successful agricultural cooperation for the cooperation with other countries in South Asia and Central Asia in the future in which CPEC can play an important role.
In this connection, China has opened up its own market for Pakistani agricultural products like rice and fish and also promised to assist Pakistan in the acquisition of modern agricultural technologies and in marketing of its Halal food products across the region.
According to official statistics (December 2020) China agreed to provide technical assistance for 13 mega projects of Pakistan’s agriculture sector.
These include setting up mega storage facilities and designated processing zones for different crops across Pakistan and setting up a large-scale dairy farming and processing unit in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa as a Pakistan-China joint venture.
Most recently Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian assured that with the start of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) phase-II more Chinese agricultural technologies would be attractive in the Pakistan local market.
During his regular briefing he highlighted that China-Pakistan cooperation has revolutionized cultivation of rice, corn, soybean, sugarcane and other crops and play an important role in further strengthening and deepening of bilateral relations.
According to a recently published research study, there exists immense potential for bilateral cooperation between Pakistan and China in production, processing and value addition of tropical fruits like banana, coconut, papaya and pineapple besides tropical oil crops like palm oil and tropical bio-fuel crops like king grass which should be further systematically streamlined and strengthened under the flagship project of CPEC.
In this connection, while launching Kisan Portal the Prime Minister Imran Khan urged that farmers in Pakistan must replicate Chinese techniques to boost productivity.
He also upheld that the agricultural sector had been made an integral part of the second phase of CPEC.
Responding to PM Khan’s remarks, Zhao Lijian said: “As the CPEC enters the second phase, there will be more Chinese agricultural technologies flowing into Pakistan which means huge potential in our agricultural cooperation.
He further pledged that agricultural cooperation was an integral part of CPEC which is an important pilot project of the Belt & Road Initiative.
He assured that China will continue to uphold the Silk Road spirit of peace and cooperation, openness, inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit.
On its part, Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhar Imam has also underscored the importance of adopting Chinese technology for abundant agricultural outcomes.
During a World Food Day (WFD) the Agricultural Minister upheld that Pakistan can be successful like China by adopting their technology and discipline.
He shared that the standard of research will improve through the CPEC leading to an increase in cotton production.
He said that the recent steps taken by the government would help achieve the target of 8.46 million cotton bales citing that production of 3.8 million bales was recorded last month.
During another online workshop, organised by the Chinese Academy of Tropical Agricultural Sciences (CATAS) and the University of Agriculture Faisalabad the Minister highlighted achievements of Chinese tropical farming and termed it important for Pakistan to excel in this field.
He was optimistic about enhancing government-to-government cooperation as well as joint ventures between private companies to boost agricultural output and value addition of products under the flagship CPEC project.
The Chinese Academy and Chinese government have already shared king grass germ-palms, which would help produce biomass fuel and execute the “Tropical Economic Palm Production Technology in Pakistan” project.
In this connection, according to the CPEC long-term plan (2017-30) China will upgrade practical rural infrastructure construction in some regions involved.
It will encourage the development and remediation of medium and low-yielding land, as well as the construction of water-saving modern agricultural zones, to maximize resource efficiency.
Moreover, it will improve the efficiency of drip irrigation technology. In the regions along the CPEC, strengthen cooperation in fields such as crop farming, livestock breeding, forestry and food production, and aquatic and fisheries.
Last but not the least, China will improve agricultural post-harvest handling, storage, and transportation, as well as marketing and sales models.
Thus a policy framework already exists between China and Pakistan which should be included and implemented in CPEC Phase-II in the country.
Time and again China has shown interest in Pakistani agriculture through CPEC because it has to spend billions of dollars every year on importing agricultural commodities from other far-reaching countries to meet the food needs of 1.3 billion people.
Under the CPEC, China will have access to Pakistani agriculture, allowing it to benefit from Pakistan’s best agricultural products at a lower cost. Moreover, there is enormous potential for China and Pakistan to cooperate in energy, animal husbandry, cold water fish, agricultural machinery, etc.
Comprehensive agricultural projects on a village or regional scale will prolong the industry chain and bring more benefits to Pakistani people,” Most recently the Chinese government unveiled a plan for the green development of the country’s agricultural sector over the next five years.
The plan, jointly issued by six departments including the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, identified resource protection, pollution control, restoration of agricultural ecology and the development of a low-carbon agricultural industrial chain as the key tasks for the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-2025) which would be replicated in CPEC agricultural & food security projects especially in its phase-II in the country.
Agriculture has been a significant driver of China’s economic growth and poverty reduction over the past four decades.
China has comprehensive plans to initiate concepts of “green” in the agriculture sector and promote sustainable agriculture more widely which should also be simulated in the Pakistan agriculture sector under CPEC project.
Sustainable agricultural practice such as the adoption of technologies that generate less pollution and utilize land and water resources more sustainably, the use of crop varieties that are more resilient to effects of climate change, or the use of more efficient infrastructure must be integrated and institutionalized in Pakistan’s agricultural sector under CPEC Phase-II projects.
Being a prominent regional expert of China, CPEC & BRI, I would suggest that the public-private sector of both sides should be included in the further strengthening of China-Pakistan agriculture cooperation under the flagship projects of CPEC.
Banking industries of both sides should extend cooperation to provide essential financial funds to make investments in modern farming technologies on easy loans.
There is an urgent need to form Corridor of Knowledge among all the agricultural universities and research centres of both sides to introduce concepts of green in the agricultural sector in the days to come.
In this regard, the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) has released a plan for promoting key subjects during the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-2025) to enhance the country’s agricultural sci-tech innovation.
It includes food security, nutrition and health, cultivated-land conservation, disease prevention and control, green development, intelligent agricultural machinery, basic research, frontier and interdisciplinary research, data resources and regional development which should be applied on ongoing and future projects of CPEC in Pakistan.