Chairman Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC), Dr. Ghulam Muhammad Ali, has stated that Pakistan has the potential to improve agricultural exports and earn precious foreign exchange, hinting at the need for making a due investment, promoting agricultural research, and improving the agro-economy of Pakistan.
“We can export our products to the Gulf countries, which are only an hour’s flight away from Pakistan, while they are importing from far-flung countries such as Brazil,” the Chairman PARC stated while addressing a workshop in Muzaffarabad on Friday.
The workshop was organized by CropLife Pakistan for the capacity building of journalists, who were made acquainted with modern tools used for sustainable agriculture. Chairman PARC chaired the session, also addressed by Executive Director CropLife Rashid Ahmad and agriculture experts, including Muhammad Asim, Talal Hakeem, Murtaza Qaddusi, Muhammad Shoaib, and Development Consultant, Babar Malik.
The speakers urged the government to focus agricultural research and adopt the latest innovative technologies, while following the international standards, for the growth of Pakistan’s agro-economy. They asserted that steps taken in this direction would help address the food security challenges to save future generations.
Chairman PARC said Pakistan’s allocation for agricultural research was just 0.18 percent of the total agricultural GDP. “Sri Lanka is spending 0.62 percent, China 0.5 percent, Nepal 0.45 percent, and India 0.29 percent of their agricultural GDP,” he added. He underlined that Pakistan had the potential to improve agricultural exports and earn precious foreign exchange.
He said PARC was focusing on olive production, adding that the extraction ratio in Balochistan was around 29 percent compared to globally around 20 percent. “It shows how favorable the environment of Pakistan is for olive oil production,” he stressed.
Dr. Ghulam Ali regretted that the budgetary allocation for PARC only catered to its salaries and medical bills, while they were even unable to pay pensions in the recent past.
He emphasized that the agricultural land should not be allowed to be used for housing societies; instead only non-productive land should be used for setting-up new cities. “Unfortunately, new housing societies are being set up by cutting mango orchards or on another agricultural land,” he remarked while referring to Multan where mango orchards were cut down to build a new housing project.
Dr. Ghulam Ali said that PARC had written a letter to Inspector General Frontier Constabulary regarding encroachment of PARC’s research center’s land in Quetta. He maintained that the Punjab government was allocating 30 acres of prime agricultural land lying under the control of the PARC research center to build a much-trumpeted Southern Punjab Secretariat in Bahawalpur. Food security is much more important than any other security, he concluded.
CropLife Bio-Technology and Seed Committee lead, Muhammad Asim, said that the prevailing trend suggested that there would be 50 percent more food and feed requirements by 2050 to meet the growing population, which would be more than 2.2 billion. However, climate change may result in 17 percent losses in harvesting and a significant 20 percent loss in arable land per capita by this time.
He said that continued investment in innovation would enable agriculture to continue a more efficient and more sustainable trajectory.
Industry experts also discussed agriculture-related policies and stressed the need for involving the industry in the policy decision-making process.
One of the sessions of the workshop was on data mining for storytelling to help journalists use reliable data in journalistic content.