By Qura tul ain Hafeez
Agriculture comprises a big chunk of Pakistan’s economy. A bulk of Pakistan’s population implicitly or explicitly, relies on this sector. According to Pakistan’s Statistical Bureau about 24 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is contributed in the national economy through agricultural sector. It constitutes 43% of labor force and is the largest source of foreign exchange earnings. But unfortunately being an agrarian economy the foreign reserves earned through this sector are not as high as they should be. A couple of months back in early 2018 a report released by Pakistan Business Council (PBC) states that “Pakistan’s agricultural productivity ranges between 29% and 52%, far lower than the world’s best averages for major commodities”. Therefore, in order to be an agrarian economy in its true sense there is a need for agricultural advancement in Pakistan.
Keeping in mind the need for agricultural advancement, the Government of Pakistan in collaboration with the Chinese firms has started different projects under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) for restructurings agriculture sector. Since its beginning the agricultural progression has always been an important aspect of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. However, this sector was not much addressed in the early harvest phase because it was more important in the start to first improve the infrastructure network and energy deficiency. Furthermore better infrastructure network and transport facilitates in maneuvering products and goods. Similarly energy is equally important as transport for the promotion of agriculture growth.
Henceforth considering the importance of agriculture, in the second phase of the CPEC, the Long Term Plan discusses in detail the agriculture growth and development. Starting from production, processing, storage and transportation, of agriculture goods, utilizing water assets, conservation and production of food, as well as land development, the LTP has prioritized the agricultural reforms.
Agriculture growth is another way of poverty alleviation. It is evident that the objective behind CPEC is to strengthen the weak economy of Pakistan. Pakistan’s financial system largely relies on agriculture so once it is developed it will bring in more economic benefits and will raise exports of agricultural goods. This would be worth mentioning here that China is world’s largest importer of agricultural products with over $100 billion of food products. But unfortunately Pakistan only shares 1% of food imports with China out of $2.93 billion. Therefore, making it an important ingredient of CPEC will not only boost Pakistan-China bilateral trade of agricultural products but will also provide a good international market for Pakistan.
Consequently in order to bring prosperity, new research in agricultural products, along with enhancing per-acre yield, producing high value-added products and linking the farmers with economic corridor are certain measures that are being under taken in the CPEC long term plan. The ministry of national food security and research has adopted certain procedural measures for the growth of agriculture sector in Pakistan. Moreover Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC) provides 30,000 solar systems to the agrarian communities for solar water pumping. Along with this China will set a fertilizer plant that will produce 800,000 tons per year. A meat processing plant in Sukkur with yearly production capacity of 200,000 tons. China will also install vegetable processing plants with annual output of 20,000 tons and a plant to process fruit juice and jam of 10,000 tons.
Focusing on the vision to upgrade Pakistan economy CPEC should further take steps like vegetable fruit production and value adding services of all the profit earning crops. Moreover livestock production should also be given priority so that they generate revenue and enhance the livelihood of farmers. CPEC will be an inspiration and boon for the agricultural and trade community of Pakistan regarding the fresh economic openings thus directing towardsfavorable revenueincentives and significant improvements in life style.
Qura tul ain Hafeez has done M Phil in international relations from Quaid-I Azam University, Islamabad. She is currently working as a Research Associate at Strategic Vision Institute in Islamabad.