Agriculture continues to play a central role in the Pakistan’s economy with pivotal impact on the socio-economic set-up. It accounts for over 21% of GDP, while employing 45% of the country’s labor force. Agriculture sector is also the primary supplier of raw materials to the downstream industry thereby contributing substantially to the country’s exports. In 2009-10 alone, Pakistan exported agriculture products worth Rs 288.18 billion including food grains, vegetables, fruits, tobacco, fisheries products, spices and livestock.
Given its dramatic upstream and downstream linkages, particularly with the industrial sector, a large impact on balance of payments and highest share in employment, the agriculture sector fails to capture the Government’s attention in terms of formal policy making.
An agrarian economy by far, Pakistan does not have a formal “Agriculture Policy”. Although, constitutionally, agriculture is a provincial responsibility, national issues such as the import and export of agricultural inputs and products, price setting, standardization and quarantine issues, national research and inter provincial issues such as the rehabilitation, operation and maintenance of primary irrigation structure come under the nexus of the Federal Government. The absence of a concise agriculture policy, and the recent devolution of the Ministry (Ministry of Food and Agriculture) at the federal level have compounded the problems of this already vulnerable sector. However, the situation also presents opportunities for donors such as IFAD and World Bank to provide support to provinces in the development of respective Agriculture policies.
Key challenges faced by the agricultural sector (also highlighted in the Pakistan COSOP document-2009) include; (i) stagnating yields, (ii) wide yield gaps between progressive and average farmers, (iii) an inadequate supply of water and the inefficient use of available water resources, (iv)the poor quality and inadequate supply of inputs,(v) poor rural infrastructure, (vi)inefficient research and extension services, (vii) frequent insect and pest attacks, (viii)a high incidence of crop and livestock diseases, (ix)lack of capital and financial resources and (x) lack of international competitiveness of some agricultural commodities.
Agriculture and food security form vital elements of Government planning. All important planning documents including the Framework for Economic Growth, “Vision 2030”, the Medium-Term Development Framework 2005-2010, and the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper II (PRSP-II) pay significant attention to the role of agriculture. However, these plans cannot and should not be considered a sufficient substitute for a comprehensive agriculture policy.