Stressed need to increase agricultural research allocation

LAHORE: Speakers at a workshop highlighted the need to increase allocations for research, adopt modern technologies and innovations, and follow international standards and certifications to boost the agricultural sector in Pakistan.

“Commercial attachés should promote our products in their respective markets to boost agricultural exports and ensure the prosperity of the country and farmers,” participants said at a workshop entitled “Modern tools for sustainable agriculture”, organized by CropLife Pakistan. in Muzaffarabad.

Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) Chairman Dr Ghulam Muhammad Ali chaired the session addressed by CropLife Executive Director Rashid Ahmad and experts including Muhammad Asim, Talal Hakeem, Murtaza Qaddusi, Muhammad Shoaib and the development consultant Babar Malik.

Dr. Ghulam Muhammad Ali regretted that Pakistan’s allocation to agricultural research is only 0.18% of agricultural GDP.

“Sri Lanka spends 0.62%, China 0.5%, Nepal 0.45% and India 0.29% of their agricultural GDP,” he said, adding that Pakistan has the potential to improve agricultural exports and earn valuable foreign exchange.

“We can export our products to [the] GCC countries, which are only one hour flight from Pakistan, while they import from distant countries like Brazil,” he said, adding that PARC is focusing on olive production .

“The extraction rate in Balochistan is around 29%, while it is around 20% in the world. This shows how favorable the environment of Pakistan is for the production of olive oil. Our annual oil import bill, which consists of palm oil and soybean oil, is $3 billion,” he said, while asserting that palm oil n was not used worldwide due to its harmfulness to human health.

“We can promote the planting of sunflowers and canola to replace harmful palm oil. This will save valuable foreign currency, as well as human health. Likewise, there is a lentil sowing margin. Producers should also be encouraged to grow sesame to reduce our edible oil import bill,” he said and suggested heavy investment in research and promotion of indigenization of agricultural machinery.

Dr. Ghulam Muhammad Ali said PARC is promoting the sowing of avocados and kiwifruit in different parts of the country. He regretted that PARC’s budget allocation only covers his salaries and medical expenses, while they were not even able to pay pensions in the recent past.

Farmland should not be allowed to be used for housing corporations; instead, only unproductive land should be used for the creation of new cities, he said.

“Unfortunately, new housing societies are created by cutting down mango orchards or other agricultural land,” he said.

Muhammad Asim, head of CropLife’s biotechnology and seeds committee, said the prevailing trend suggested there would be 50% more food and feed needs by 2050 to meet the growing population, which would be more of 2.2 billion. However, climate change could lead to crop losses of 17% and a significant loss of 20% of arable land per capita at this time.

Agriculture was undergoing a transformation, while advances in agriculture over the past 80 years demonstrate that major advances in modern agriculture have enabled farmers to produce more with less, he said.

“The amount of arable land and natural resources on the planet is fixed; meanwhile, the world’s population is growing at exponential rates. Continued investment in innovation will allow agriculture to continue on a more efficient and sustainable trajectory,” he said.

CropLife executive director Rashid Ahmad said the association is committed to helping farmers produce enough food for a growing population through access to innovative technologies.

Lana T. Arthur