N H Zuberi
KARACHI: Integrating agriculture sector into “circular economic model” can resolve Pakistan’s economic, social, environmental, food shortage and inflation problems. The circular economic model will also play an instrumental role in achieving a number of United Nations-Sustainable Development Goals-2030 (UN-SDGs), said Pakistan Businesses Forum (PBF) Vice President Ahmad Jawad.
Talking to Business Recorder he said, “agriculture is inherently the backbone of Pakistan’s economic system and without the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices, the country’s other economic sectors cannot achieve sustainable development. For that, digital revolution in any sector requires investment, where the banking industry comes into play.”
Ahmad Jawad was of the view that the banks especially ZTBL (Zarai Tarqiati Bank Limited) could finance various digital farming or sustainable agricultural solutions under the umbrella of Green Banking by providing green financing facilities.
The State Bank of Pakistan has issued ‘Guidelines for Efficient Agricultural Water Management Financing’ to promote water conservation through the banking industry. Sustainable/Green financing schemes with low-interest rates could also be launched for various eco-friendly agricultural techniques, equipments, he mentioned.
He said that the leveraging drone technology could enable farmers to increase agricultural productivity through improved pest management for which the ZTBL and other private banks must extend fresh loans to small farmers across Pakistan.
“The small farmers can be facilitated through timely credit and this is possible if the ZTBL and other banks work on new technologies instead of sticking to traditional four or five agri-products only.”
He argued that Pakistan population would almost be doubled by year 2050, while climatic changes and global warming were posing new challenges which would ultimately create food security and other problems; therefore, emergent and effective measures on agricultural and other relevant fonts were direly needed to avoid any adverse effect.
Ahmad Jawad added that over the last many years, country’s agriculture sector had been marred by temporary and ineffective policies which impacted the rural economy negatively thus resulting in massive migration of rural populations to urban centres, especially in Sindh and Balochistan.
PBF vice president suggested that the banks to must encourage value-addition activities in fruit and vegetables being grown in different areas of Pakistan to export such products.
He asserted banks should educate and facilitate all the value chain partners including farmers and other supply chain partners about the various environmentally and economically sustainable agricultural products and processes available, which would increase per acre yield and minimise adverse environmental impacts.
Ahmad Jawad was of the view that implementation of Green Supply Chain practices was vital for the development of sustainable agricultural practices.
Similarly, Pakistan spends substantial amount of foreign exchange on import of edible oils every year; in order to save precious foreign exchange reserves, ZTBL and other banks must introduce concessional loans to the farmers for encouraging sowing of soybean, canola and sunflower over larger areas.
“If we adopt these certain measures in agriculture sector then there is no point that agriculture sector contribution to GDP may touch six percent which will be a great contribution for the economy,” he said.
Ahmad Jawad further told that meaningful macro and micro level interventions by the state have become indispensable to revitalise the agriculture sector, upgrade agriculture systems and increase yields.
He said the country is expecting to get the wheat production target of more than 30 million tonnes during 2021-22.
The timely disbursement of DAP subsidy at Rs 2000 per bag and better-quality seeds can boost domestic wheat production to avoid the import of essential commodities. Currently DAP fertiliser stood at Rs 7000 per bag which is unbearable for the farming community.
He said that farmers can help Pakistan achieve self-sufficiency in wheat production and build strategic food reserves with friendly policies to ensure reasonable profitability on their produce.
However, according to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Pakistan’s wheat import estimate for 2021-22 is unchanged from the previous forecast at 2 million tonnes.
The USDA further said the domestic wheat demand situation likely will be impacted by neighbouring Afghanistan becoming increasingly politically unstable. Afghanistan imports almost all of its domestic flour from Pakistan, which might pressure Pakistan to import more wheat for stocks.