Within one month of gaining its independence, Pakistan joined FAO on 7 September 1947, the first UN body it joined, clearly signalling the high priority assigned to developing its agriculture sector. The first agreement between FAO and the government was for technical assistance in agricultural policy and planning in June 1951. FAO support to the government was coordinated through UNDP until the accreditation of an FAO Representative to Pakistan in 1978.
Agriculture is a mainstay of the Pakistan economy, although it has been declining as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) as the country’s industrial and service sectors have grown. Agriculture accounted for 21 percent of GDP in 2010, compared to 36 percent in 1980. The sector provided livelihoods for 45 percent of the population in 2010, down from 53 percent three decades earlier.
Pakistan’s food security rests upon its wheat production. The country produced 24 million tonnes of wheat in 2010, compared with 11.6 million tonnes a year in the early 1980s. Wheat has helped feed a population that has grown to 174 million people from 85 million in 1980. Rice production has more than doubled over the same period, rising to 7 million tonnes from 3.3 million tonnes, and is now a major export crop earning US$2.2 billion in foreign exchange. Cotton has become a major industrial feedstock, with production increasing to 12 million bales in 2010, up from 4.5 million bales in the early 1980s. Livestock production has also substantially increased to a value of US$758.604 million from US$51.51 million in 1980. Livestock exports totalled US$37.46 million in 2010, compared to US$1.170 million three decades ago.
FAO has been at the government’s side throughout this process of development, implementing 573 projects worth US$314 million that have provided support to policy development, capacity building and pilot and key demonstration projects. Pakistan is a pilot country for the One UN system and FAO has been at the forefront of developing the approach that ensures the highest priority is given to the agriculture sector in line with the government’s priorities.
Wheat is a major success story for Pakistan that has moved from being a net importer in 1980 to having a sustained presence on export markets during the last decade. Wheat accounts for two-thirds of national cereal production, and is the most important contributor to overall food security, providing 60 percent of the carbohydrate and protein requirement for an average Pakistani. Bread baked from wheat truly is the staff of life in Pakistan.
Wheat contributes 14.4 percent to the value of agriculture produce and 3.1 percent to GDP, and is cultivated over 8.7 million hectares, 86 percent of which is irrigated. Pakistan now produces over 22 million tonnes of wheat annually, making Pakistan the eighth largest producer in the world. Increasing yields have led to production effectively doubling while cultivated land has expanded by only one third.
This success has been achieved by an integrated programme of support, commencing with the selection and introduction of rust resistant wheat varieties adapted to the country’s numerous agro-ecological zones. Success was enhanced through a programme of development and extension of best wheat production practices that focused on use of quality seed of high yielding varieties, timely crop sowing, balanced use of fertilizers, selective herbicides use and more efficient use of scarce water resources. Pakistan also pursued a policy environment conducive to expansion of wheat production. Most notable in this was the price support policy where wheat is now the only agricultural commodity for which government sets the floor purchase price, called the Guaranteed Minimum Price. This has been instrumental in establishing a stable investment climate that allows farmers to plan with some surety for returns and adopt higher input cost strategies to increase productivity. FAO’s support to the government was seminal to implementing these changes. Its technical cooperation programmes (TCP) have had significant input on the supporting policy, development of agronomic production practices, improved post-harvest management and other areas. The Special Programme on Food Security and its follow on crop maximization programmes were central to the government strategy to extend these messages to smaller and resource-poor farmers.
However, much remains to be done that can be done, for example the yield gap is substantial between leading farmers getting 6.0 tonnes per hectare, and the average farmer getting 2.6 tonnes. Increased adoption of proven agronomic improvements would go a long way to reducing this gap. These improvements include provision of quality seed through the private and public sector, timely sowing and availability of inputs, adoption of a more balanced fertilization, modification of irrigation regimes to more closely match actual crop water requirements and stage of development. Opportunities to increase productivity exist through system improvements such as increased development of conservation agriculture approaches, use of green manuring, development of rice-wheat cropping systems, reduction in soil tillage and use of selective herbicides for weed control offer opportunities to increase productivity.
Pakistan faces some challenges, most notably the breakdown in resistance to some key diseases which will require further investment in development of new crop varieties, as well as varieties adapted to abiotic stress associated with climate change events. The supply of high-quality certified seed is a key ingredient to sustained productivity increases and much remains to be done to put in place a reliable public and private seed and input supply system. Water availability is becoming a major issue in the major wheat growing regions and while engineering improvements can reduce transmission losses, much remains to be done on improving water use efficiency from the agronomic standpoint in the crop field.
Pakistan has set itself the ambitious target of an annual increase of 4 percent in wheat production to meet the needs of its growing population while still enabling an increasing presence on the export markets.
Livestock production is central to the agriculture sector, contributing 53 percent to agricultural sector productivity and 11.4 percent to GDP. Livestock production has increased substantially over the 30 years from 1980 to 2010, from a value of US$51.51 million to US$758.604 million in 2010 with exports increasing from US$11.707 million to 37.462 million. The national herd (excluding poultry) has doubled over the period from 77 million to 154 million, with milk production increasing from 16 million tonnes in 1990 to 36 million tonnes in 2010. Annual beef production has doubled from 0.8 million tonnes to 1.6 million tonnes, while poultry meat has quadrupled to 0.7 million tonnes.
The massive expansion in livestock and livestock products has been supported by a system-wide integrated approach adopted by the government, firstly through development of policies aimed at supporting scientific approaches to improving existing livestock husbandry. FAO was central to this process and, in particular, contributed to the strengthening of various institutions at university level and through development of government R&D institutions such as the Animal Sciences Institute at NARC Islamabad.
Productivity at the farm level increased through a combined programme of disease control and improved feeding. Central to this was the development of feed resources, and promotion of the use of balanced feed. Low-cost feed formulation strategies were adopted for locally available fodders (combined with introduction of more productive varieties). Twenty private sector feed mills are now producing over 150 000 tonnes of concentrate per annum. This has enabled the promotion of feedlot fattening for small and large ruminant for milk and meat production. The FAO project on feed resources contributed essential technical support.
A dairy processing industry was established with initial technical support from FAO and subsequently taken up on a large scale by multinational partners. The key constraint was the lack of pasteurization, UHT plants and equipment. From the 1980s this changed, with increasing capacity coming on line to the stage where Pakistan is now the fourth largest milk producer worldwide, with 24 private sector processing plants with daily capacity of 632 tonnes.
Intensive poultry farming has also taken off, supported by a progressive government policy environment that makes large-scale investment attractive. Pakistan has more than 400 commercial hatcheries with an annual capacity of 1.5 billion chicks. There are more than 150 feed mills producing 9 million tonnes of poultry ration each year.
FAO assisted Pakistan in its effective control of transboundary animal diseases, with Pakistan eliminating Rinderpest. The government has set up central reference laboratories for poultry and animal diseases. In terms of poultry disease, Pakistan was particularly successful in controlling highly pathogenic avian influenza Type H5N1. With FAO assistance Pakistan set up a reference laboratory and countrywide monitoring programme. It detected the first outbreaks in 2006, in time to instigate a culling and containment programme. Pakistan has been free of H5N1 since 2008.
The success of policy reviews on the meat trade, and the involvement of private enterprise, has been an outstanding success and has been instrumental in growing the export of meat from practically zero in 1980 (what export did take place was largely of skins and hides) to US$37.46 million in 2010. This was essentially a private sector-led activity encouraged by a supportive government policy environment to the stage where there are now 14 export accredited abattoirs and meat packing facilities supplying high-priced markets in the Gulf States and Arabian Peninsula.
Rice is a major success story in the development of agricultural productivity in Pakistan with increases both in the area cultivated and in yields. In 1980 nearly 2 million hectares were cultivated, producing an average yield of 1.7 tonnes per hectare. By 2010 this had increased to nearly 3 million hectares, while average yields increased to over 2.3 tonnes per hectare.
In Pakistan, rice is an important food and cash crop, the second largest staple food crop after wheat, and is the second major exportable commodity after cotton. Rice was planted on an area of over 2.7 million hectares (11 percent of the total cropped area), with total production of 6.7 million tonnes during 2009-2010. It accounts for 17 percent of the total cereals produced annually. It also accounts for 6.7 percent of value added in agriculture and 1.6 percent of GDP. Pakistan ranks fifth in the world for rice exports. Every year around one-third of the total rice produce is exported earning US$2.2 billion.
These substantial increases were supported by the introduction of farmer-friendly government policies, institutional reforms, development of high-yielding and fertilizer-responsive varieties and better production technologies. The emphasis changed over the three decades: earlier years focused on state support to subsidize inputs and guarantee prices. Gradually these subsidies have been removed and now the market freely sets the prices with the government assisting in timely access to market information for all actors. State investment in production research, and interaction with international research bodies such as IRRI, was critically important in developing new high-yield and fertilizer- responsive varieties, particularly of the superior Basmati lines. For example, a 20 percent increase was obtained when switching to a new high-yield Basmati variety BAS385 in 1985 and again in 1996 with the switch to Super Basmati. In all, some 23 new rice varieties have been approved for general circulation in the country. FAO was engaged with government for each of these stages, from policy advice in the development of the agricultural strategy, through specific project support on technological innovations in rice transplanting, to adoption of reduced tillage practices and in improving post-harvest handling.
Further productivity increases have been obtained by adoption of integrated plant production, protection and nutrition measures to more finely attune cultural practices to variety and site specific factors. In particular the focus was on Integrated Pest Management practices to reduce the use of harmful pesticides (and costs), more balanced nutrition addressing macro and micronutrients, plant population density and transplanting methods. Each contributes to improved production and margins for small farmers. A continuing programme is underway in public and private institutions for assessing innovations for rice production, development of rice-wheat production systems, use of green manures, and increased appropriate mechanization.
In addition, the value of production also increased through development of high-value strains such as the world famous Basmati rice and its successful penetration of lucrative export markets. For example, the value of rice exports in 1980 at US$385 million was negligible, but increased as a serious contributor to export earnings by 2010 bringing in US$2.2 billion. This was the result of high-yield Basmati rice varieties such as BAS385 and the emergence of the private sector in 1988, and strong expansion of the sector starting in 1992. The Rice Exporter Association of Pakistan was formed in 2000, with over 550 members by 2010.
Cotton is a major success story for Pakistan with production tripling between 1980 and 2010 from 4.2 million bales each year to 12.7 million bales, while the area planted increased from 2.1 million hectares to just over 3 million. Per hectare productivity has increased from 339 kg to over 700 kg. Cotton makes a valuable contribution to Pakistan’s agricultural economy, accounting for 8.6 percent of agricultural product and 1.8 percent of GDP. Further downstream value addition as an industrial feed stock to the ginneries and textile mills adds substantially to this economic contribution. The expansion of cotton production in the agricultural sector has been duplicated in the industrial processing sector, with 303 ginneries in 1980 growing to over 1 200 in 2010, while textile mills have expanded from 158 to 500, with yarn production increasing from 375 million kgs per year to over two billion kgs.
Pakistan has not only increased its cotton productivity, but has also substantially increased the quality of the product, switching from the short-staple length that predominated production in 1980 to long-staple length cotton by 2010, with staple lengths in excess of 1 1/8th inches.
This productivity gain was a result of integrated support from government and the private sector, with strong government support to the textile mills and ginning sector through industrial policy and subsidies on manufacturing, development of the Cotton Standards Institute and setting in place standards for the industry that promoted the move to longer staple length and reduction in contamination. FAO was at the forefront in assisting the government in developing and implementing these policies, and provided key consulting and technical assistance to capacity building of the Cotton Standards Institute.
Improvements in the field of productivity for cotton were a result of an integrated approach that combined varietal improvement that supported a wheat-cotton cropping system. This allowed a greater area to come into production without affecting the food staple of the country, introduction of improved agronomic practices such as raised bed culture, development, demonstration and adoption of an Integrated Pest Management strategy that reduced chemical usage while promoting increased productivity. Varietal improvement also contributed substantially to the increase in yields, though considerable differences remain between individual farmers and regions in per hectare yields. The advent of BT-gene-enabled cotton was a major step forward in non pesticide control of boll worm, which had been a major pest, though Pakistan still has much to do in terms of its regulatory framework, particularly in terms of protection of intellectual property rights to allow it to tap into further gene modifications. Nonetheless an active programme is ongoing in the country to develop resistance characteristics for Pakistan-specific issues.
One significant issue is the indigenous Cotton Leaf Curl Virus, which is particularly injurious to the main cotton producing districts of the Punjab and an ongoing programme is underway to address this problem. However, as this virus is confined to India and Pakistan little external assistance is available for development of resistant varieties. The effects are severe, with yield differentials between affected districts in Punjab and unaffected parts of Sindh as much as 500 kg per hectare.
FAO has provided key technical assistance and support to the government programme for cotton development from the policy level through development of the Farmer’s Field Schools approach to production and particularly IPM for reduced pesticide use. Training of key researchers and their exposure to advanced breeding technologies now being put to use to develop indigenous varieties adapted to the biotic and abitoc stains of the Pakistan environment came out of several FAO-supported capacity-building projects during this period.
Published in ZaraiMedia.com