Agricultural Reforms

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s call for reforms in the agricultural sector certainly require serious consideration, due to the falling yield and Pakistan’s trade balance crisis. As it stands, Pakistan’s export numbers remain low, while the only reason import has trickled to a halt is that the government is aggressively controlling the inflow of goods into the country, at the cost of production.
The Kissan Package might indeed have had an impact on the yield of wheat this season, which was higher than expected, and might be used to increase exports according to the government. But the package itself did little other than manage the supply chain of raw materials for farmers in a timely fashion. Through the grant of loans and provision of seeds and fertilisers, the government essentially ensured that farmers had what they needed to maximise yield.
But this on its own is not enough. From the Prime Minister’s statement, it is clear that the intention is there but little innovation in any plans to reform the agricultural sector to reduce the import bill. From installing solar power tube wells to establishing processing units, these initiatives are important, but they should be treated as a staple part of any agricultural policy but not the main point.
Pakistan’s agricultural production needs to increase substantially in the years to come if we are to make ourselves less reliant on food imports and even consider importing surplus. For this, the yield per acre must be prioritized. Examples can be taken from countries such as the Netherlands and pre-war Ukraine, which manage to achieve a lot with limited resources such as land.
For Pakistan, the threat of climate change and frequent major weather events naturally also make the situation more unpredictable, so a focus on making production more climate resilient must also be factored into agricultural policy. If the government is serious about focusing on agriculture—even though we have heard this many times before with limited results—a more holistic approach that goes beyond just securing resources must be considered.

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