FAISALABAD – There is a dire need for agricultural scientists and experts to formulate a comprehensive strategy to enhance the production of major crops and reduce imports of essential items.
These views were expressed by experts while addressing the participants of a workshop on ‘Agriculture Sector: SWOT Analysis’ organised by the University of Agriculture Faisalabad (UAF).
The workshop was chaired by Vice Chancellor Sindh Agriculture University Tandojam Prof Dr Fateh Muhammad Marri, while UAF Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Iqrar Ahmad Khan, Agricultural University Multan Vice Chancellor Prof. Dr. Asif Ali, Islamia University Bahawalpur Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Athar Mehboob, Cholistan Veterinary University Prof Dr Muhammad Sajjad, DG Extension Punjab Anjum Ali Butter and UVAS Lahore Vice Chancellor Dr Nasim Ahmad also addressed the gathering.
Prof Dr Fateh Muhammad Marri said that poverty alleviation was directly linked to agriculture sector. He said, if the agriculture sector contribution to GDP grows by 6 percent every year, it would reduce poverty by 50 percent. He said that loans to small farmers, and ensuring agricultural inputs to the small farmers would help combat low productivity. He said that it was imperative to persuade the private sector to invest in agriculture. He urged the extension workers to go to the villages and make every effort for farmers to get aware of the agricultural recommendations and technologies.
He said that more than half of the population of Pakistan was suffering from malnutrition. Prof Dr Iqrar Ahmad Khan said that agriculture was facing challenges like low productivity, climate change, post-harvest losses, rural development, water scarcity, and uncertified seeds etc. He said that increase in productivity and value addition were essential to make agriculture attractive and profitable.
He said that more than 40 percent of crops were wasted in the post-harvest process, adding that Pakistan was one of the countries which was suffering water scarcity challenges. A campaign should be launched to ensure the rational usage of water, he said and added that chemically contaminated water of the industry was polluting the groundwater. He said a house plan in Australia does not approve unless it was fitted with a rainwater storage tank.
“Despite huge potential, we have limited agriculture to only five crops, however, in order to make agriculture profitable, high value crops should be promoted” he said. He was of the view that climate changes had started playing havoc with the agriculture sector, resulting in low productivity and breaking out of new diseases for which new varieties would have to be introduced.
He said that Okara was having good production of potato, adding that same model of other crops could be formulated in other districts.
Prof Dr Asif Ali said the goal of poverty alleviation could not be achieved without ensuring rural development. He said the provision of best seeds to farmers would not only increase the productivity of the country but also make farmers economically prosperous. He said that India was far ahead in the production of cheese and it was used as an everyday food but “we are still lagging behind in the preparation of cheese”.
He said that efforts should be made to curb the irrational use of water. He said that there was a big difference between the agricultural productivity of the progressive and traditional farmer for which the journey of development could be ensured by equipping the traditional farmer with modern trends.
Prof. Dr. Muhammad Sajjad Khan said, “We have to work to increase the productivity of livestock instead of the number of animals so that economic condition of the farmer could be improved.” He said the majority of population of Pakistan was engaged in agriculture. He emphasized on value addition in agriculture.
Dr. Anjum Bhutter said the Punjab government was using all its resources to resolve the problems of farmers for agricultural development.