Towards food security

THE government, on Tuesday, unveiled the country’s first National Food Security Policy aimed at eliminating hunger and malnutrition and making food accessible for all, especially the poor. The policy, among other things, envisages 4% annual growth in food production, including crops, livestock and fisheries and will help make the agriculture sector more productive, profitable, competitive and resilient to climate change.
No doubt, commendable progress has been made in the agriculture sector ever since creation of Pakistan, which is evident from the fact that despite rapid population growth the country is not only able to meet basic food requirements of the people but also produce some surplus for export. However, experts say there is much greater potential which remains unrealised because of lack of proper policies and incentives. Pakistan’s agricultural productivity ranges between 29% and 52%, far lower than the world’s best averages for major commodities. Agricultural commodities, particularly cotton, provide critical inputs for Pakistan’s major manufacturing industries. However, lower harvests translate into low industrial production and higher costs. Pakistan ranks ahead of regional competitors like India, Bangladesh and others in terms of resource base and production of various crops. In global rankings, Pakistan is the 4th largest producer of rice; 5th largest producer in dairy; and 7th largest producer of wheat. But we have not been able to exploit these resources and potential to the optimum in the absence of introduction of latest technologies and techniques as well as marketing. Another serious problem is the highest cost of inputs, rendering the cost of production unsustainable. The government took some measures for reduction of taxes on fertilizers, pesticides and tractors but still the cost of production in Pakistan is much higher than regional or other agricultural countries. Growing shortage of irrigation water is also going to be a major challenge in coming years but regrettably we are affording the luxury of not building water reservoirs and the country will have to pay the price for this short sightedness.

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