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Need stressed to increase allocation for agricultural research

Need stressed to increase allocation for agricultural research

Need stressed to increase allocation for agricultural research
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LAHORE: Speakers at a workshop have stressed the need for increasing allocation for research, adopting modern technology and innovations and following international standards and certifications for boosting the agriculture sector in Pakistan.

“Commercial attaché should promote our products in their respective markets to boost the agricultural exports and ensure prosperity of the country and the farmers,” the participants said, while speaking at a workshop titled “Modern tools for sustainable agriculture”, arranged by the 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 Development Consultant Babar Malik.

Dr Ghulam Muhammad Ali regretted that Pakistan’s allocation for agricultural research was just 0.18 per cent of the agricultural GDP.

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

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“We can export our produce to [the] GCC countries, which are only an hour’s flight from Pakistan, while they are importing from far flung countries such as Brazil,” he said, adding that PARC was focusing on olive production.

“Extraction ratio in Balochistan is around 29 per cent, while globally it is around 20 per cent. It shows how favourable the environment of Pakistan is for olive oil production. Our annual import bill of oil, which consists of palm oil and soya oil, is $3 billion,” he said, while claiming that palm oil was not used world over because of its being harmful for human health.

“We can promote the sowing of sunflowers and canola to replace harmful palm oil. It will save precious foreign exchange, as well as human health. Similarly, there is a scope of sowing lentils. The growers should also be encouraged to grow sesame to reduce our edible oil import bill,” he said and suggested heavy investment in research and promoting indigenisation in agricultural machinery.

Dr Ghulam Muhammad Ali said PARC was promoting sowing of Avocado and Kiwi in different parts of the country. He regretted that the budgetary allocation for PARC only caters to its salaries and medical bills, while they were even unable to pay pensions in the recent past.

The agricultural land should not be allowed to be used for housing societies; instead only non-productive land should be used for setting-up new cities, he said.

“Unfortunately, new housing societies are being set up by cutting mango orchards or on other agricultural land,” he said.

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CropLife Bio-Technology and Seed Committee lead Muhammad Asim said that the prevailing trend suggested that there would be 50 per cent more food and feed requirements by 2050 to meet the growing population, which would be 2.2 billion plus. However, climate change may result in 17 per cent losses in harvesting and a significant 20 per cent loss in arable land per capita by this time.

Agriculture was undergoing transformation, while advances in agriculture over the past 80 years demonstrate that major strides that modern agriculture has made was enabling farmers to grow more from less, he said.

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

CropLife executive director Rashid Ahmad said that the association was committed to help the farmers grow sufficient amounts of food for a growing population through access to innovative technologies.

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