Pakistan Agriculture: Record Harvests Forecast After Heavy Monsoon Rains
In the first few months of 2022, Pakistan has exported more rice to China than Vietnam, the historic top supplier, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Pakistan's total rice exports are forecast to jump by 450,000 tons to 4.8 million tons, almost 30% higher than the prior year.
|Women Farmers Planting Rice in Pakistan. Source: Reuters|
Pakistan experienced broad-based economic growth across all key sectors in FY 21-22; manufacturing posted 9.8% growth, services 6.2% and agriculture 4.4%. The 4.4% growth in agriculture is particularly welcome; it helps reduce rural poverty. The country is expected to have yet another record year for agriculture in 2022-23 after heavy monsoon rains. Rice is an important food crop in Pakistan but wheat is the principal grain consumed domestically. Unfortunately, the same hot and dry planting conditions that delayed planting of the 2022 rice crop in Punjab and Sindh provinces have adversely affected Pakistan’s wheat production. This has forced the government to import wheat at a time of high prices amid the war in Ukraine, a major wheat exporter.
|A Cotton Field in Pakistan|
The recent monsoon rains will help to kick-start the sowing of major Kharif (autumn) crops including rice, cotton, sugarcane and corn after about a month's delay. “There was 40% less water available for the Kharif season (during May-June 2022),” an official of the Ministry of National Food Security and Research said while talking to The Express Tribune on Saturday. Earlier in March this year, Pakistan's Federal Committee on Agriculture (FCA) had said “for the Kharif year 2022, the water availability in canals head will be 65.84 million acre feet (MAF) against last year’s 65.08 MAF”. Recent rains have helped fill up major water reservoirs across the country. About 150,000 cubic feet per second of water is being released from Pakistan's largest Tarbela dam which is more than the combined irrigation needs of the two provinces. It is also generating over 3,000 MW of electricity, according to media reports.
|Heavy 2022 Monsoon Rainfall. Source: Pakistan Met Office|
“Cotton production is expected to improve to 9.5-10 million bales (one bale weighs 170 kg) in the wake of ongoing rainfall in cotton belts in Punjab and Sindh,” said Pakistan Central Cotton Committee Vice President Dr Muhammad Ali Talpur. “Cotton production will remain high, as farmers have improved crop management in the backdrop of higher prices in the domestic (and international) market.”
|Drought Map of Pakistan. Source: Relief Web|
Pakistan's agriculture output is the 10th largest in the world. The country produces large and growing quantities of cereals, meat, milk, fruits and vegetables. Currently, Pakistan produces about 38 million tons of cereals (mainly wheat, rice and corn), 17 million tons of fruits and vegetables, 70 million tons of sugarcane, 60 million tons of milk and 4.5 million tons of meat. Total value of the nation's agricultural output exceeds $50 billion. Improving agriculture inputs and modernizing value chains can help the farm sector become much more productive to serve both domestic and export markets.
|Pakistan's Thar Desert After Monsoon 2022. Source: Emmanuel Guddu|
Pakistanis are eating more and healthier foods, according to the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2021-22. Per capita average daily calorie intake in Pakistan has jumped to 2,735 calories in FY 2021-22 from 2,457 calories in 2019-20. The biggest contributor to it is the per capita consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables which soared from 53.6 Kg to 68.3 Kg, less than half of the 144 Kg (400 grams/day) recommended by the World Health Organization. Healthy food helps cut disease burdens and reduces demand on the healthcare system. Under former Prime Minister Imran Khan's leadership, Pakistan succeeded in achieving these nutritional improvements in spite of surging global food prices amid the Covid19 pandemic.
Investments in modernization of the agriculture production process and farm-to-market value chain will require major reforms to ensure growers get a bigger share of the value. The extraordinary power of the middlemen (arthis) as financiers needs to be regulated. This can not happen without legislation in close consultation with the growers. Improving agriculture inputs and modernizing value chains can help raise the productivity of the farm sector for it to serve both domestic and export markets better.
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