(August 15, 2022)
Chairman of National Business Group Pakistan, President Pakistan Businessmen and Intellectuals Forum, and All Karachi Industrial Alliance and former provincial minister Mian Zahid Hussain on the poor state of the country’s most important sector resulting in the economic downturn.
Despite the world’s best canal system and fertile land, agricultural imports are increasing at an alarming rate which is a drain on the exchequer, he said.
Mian Zahid Hussain said that during the last financial year, food items worth ten billion dollars, tea worth one billion dollars, cotton worth two billion dollars and palm oil worth four billion dollars were imported, which is worth Rs3400 billion.
Talking to the business community, the veteran business leader said that Pakistan would not only become fully self-sufficient in agriculture but would also become a notable exporter of agricultural products if investments are made along with favourable policies.
The summary of all previous agricultural policies of Pakistan is that one sector was given attention and the other was neglected, paving the way for its decline.
The business leader said that almost one-third of the country’s population is related to agriculture, its share in GDP is more than 22% and 70% of exports are also linked to this sector, but it was never the focus of policymakers.
Mian Zahid Hussain said that the condition of the agricultural sector improved somewhat in the sixties, after which it began to decline and the agricultural sector has not been able to perform satisfactorily for the past years due to mafia, non-promotion of corporate farming, lack of planning and research, and lack of capital.
Lack of water, steep rise in the prices of inputs and deterioration of land conditions have also contributed to the problem.
Mian Zahid Hussain said that thirty-four years ago, an expert prepared a report for solving the problems of agriculture and ensuring its development, which till now no one bothered to take seriously and follow the recommendations contained in it.
During this time, some attention was given to new types of seeds, which increased the production of many crops, but this was nothing compared to other countries in the region.
Currently, the level of underground water in Punjab is decreasing by one to three feet per year, which is a big threat to the future of the country, but nothing is being done in this regard.
In the last eight years, the population of the country has increased tremendously, but the production of wheat has not increased, while the production of cotton is continuously falling.
Billions of dollars are being spent on imports of wheat, cotton and palm oil which is unbearable for the country’s exchequer.