ISLAMABAD-A comprehensive reform plan is required to boost the agriculture sector’s output, lower the imports of food products and improve the living standard of farmers.

Agriculture is an essential component and a strong engine of growth in a majority of developing countries. Pakistan is also an agricultural-based economy that relies heavily on it for national income and job creation. The biggest portion of the population is actively engaged either directly or indirectly in the agriculture sector.

Talking to WealthPK, Dr. Nurullah, a senior scientific officer at National Agriculture Research Centre (NARC), Islamabad, said, “Since Pakistan is an agricultural country, its economy cannot be developed without taking care of its agricultural sector. The country’s agricultural sector can develop with the adoption of new technologies, allowing farmers to enhance their productivity and their products to become more competitive.”

He added that to bring reforms in the agriculture sector it was necessary to strengthen research organisations by enhancing funding to them. He said the government should also involve private companies for increasing the agriculture output. “To improve farming methods, special focus should be given to ensure availability of quality seeds, easy loans and pesticides. This can be achieved with the involvement of the private sector,” he underscored. “Farmers should have easy access to inputs like seeds, fertiliser and pesticides,” he maintained. Nurullah said that the government should give special attention to land and water reforms. 

“The lands under active farming require maintenance like restoring their soil fertility, eradicating salinity and waterlogging. Lands lying unused can also be brought into cultivation,” he suggested. The NARC scientist called for creating and expanding cold storage facilities to keep perishable commodities from spoiling.  “As the country’s credit system is overcomplicated, small farmers with limited financial resources often avoid applying for bank loans. Farmers should have easy access to loans through one-window operation,” he said.

Nurullah said it was essential that agricultural loans were made more flexible so farmers could use them for a variety of agricultural needs. “However, to ensure that the money is used appropriately, the government should have a monitoring mechanism put in place.”

He also advocated shunning hazardous use of pesticides, and urged the government to ensure that pesticides were not sprayed more than the required amount to avoid causing damage to crops and human health. It is important to mention here that the prime minister has directed the launch of a comprehensive agriculture plan to extend incentives to farmers on a priority basis. He has directed that the companies selling uncertified seeds and pesticides should be dealt with strictly and that it should be ensured that the farmers receive certified seeds and fertilisers at lower rates. He has stressed that initiatives would be taken to introduce the latest agricultural methods to the farming community.