The government is working to ensure availability of quality seeds, development of cold storage facilities and farm mechanisation to enhance per-acre output of major crops, said Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhar Imam.

Addressing an international conference on ‘Best practices for building sustainable food systems in OIC region’ on Wednesday, he said that despite having one of the world’s best alluvial soils and irrigation system, they could not fully harness the potential of the agriculture sector.

The conference was organised by the Islamic Organisation for Food Security (IOFS) in collaboration with various international research organisations to discuss issues and challenges faced by the agriculture sector and shared expertise to address them.

Imam added that lack of quality seeds, cold storage facilities, farm mechanisation, trained manpower, post-harvest management, processing industries, and digital agriculture platforms were the main hurdles in local agriculture development.

“Under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan, the government has prioritised agriculture sector and initiated working to diversify the sector, by enhancing focus on high value horticultural crops, oilseeds and pulses.”

The government was also taking keen interest in livestock breed improvement, water conservation and promoting farm mechanisation he added.

The minister said that it was supporting farmers by ensuring quality seed of improved varieties, providing farm machinery at subsidised rates and disseminating improved production packages.

He said that despite the pandemic and locust attacks, the production of wheat, rice, maize and sugarcane has increased to a record level, which was the result of prudent agriculture policies of the current government.

Imam told the forum that this year was a remarkable year for agriculture sector of Pakistan, adding that economy got a boost with the record agricultural production, indicating a lesser reliance on food imports in 2021-22.

Besides, he said, due to favourable policies and interventions, exports of agro-commodities have also increased significantly that helped attract handsome amount of foreign exchange for the country.

Considering the role of provinces, he said, the government was also engaging all stakeholders for building sustainable food system in Pakistan, adding that these strategic initiatives would help improve public health situation, which was reflecting high rates of stunting.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2021.

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