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.
|Top 10 Countries by Agriculture Output. Source: FAO|
Pakistan has about 36 million hectares of land under cultivation. Wheat and rice are grown on more than half of it. Fruits and vegetables each account for only about 3% of the cultivable land. Since year 2001, the country's cereal production, mainly wheat, corn and rice, has grown about 45% to 38 million tons. Pakistan produced 6.64 million tons of vegetables and 5.89 million tons of fruits in 2001.
Pakistan is the world’s 4th largest exporter of rice. The country's domestic production is estimated to surge 13.6% to an all-time high of 8.4 million tons in the year end June 2021, according to Bloomberg.
Vegetable production rose to about 10 million tons and fruit production increased to nearly 7 million tons in 2015. A little over 60% of Pakistan's agriculture consists of livestock. Pakistan produces 60 million tons of milk and 4.5 million tons of meat. Fish production adds up to about 575,000 tons.
|Pakistan's Rising Rice Exports. Source: Bloomberg|
|Share of Land For Various Crops in Pakistan|
Crop yields in Pakistan are low, mainly due to poor quality inputs like seeds. In addition to fertilizer and water, seed is the basic input for agriculture sector and has a major role in enhancing agriculture productivity. This needs to be a key area of focus for Pakistani policymakers working on agriculture.
Other critical area is post-harvest handling, particularly storage and transportation that is in desperate need of improvement. Post-harvest losses in fruits and vegetables due to mishandling of the perishable product, poor transportation, and inadequate storage facilities and market infrastructure account for about 30%–40% of total production, according to experts at Asian Development Bank.
|World's 5th Largest Population of Chicken in Pakistan|
Improvements in agriculture inputs and modernization of post-harvest process require significant financing and investment. Growers get only a small fraction of value of what they produce, making it difficult for them to make these investments. Middlemen finance farmers and take the lion's share of profits in the value chain.
|Source: FAO via Kleffmann Group|
Most of the farmers sell their produce to wholesalers via middlemen called arthis, according to an ADB report. Farmers contract out fruit orchards during the flowering stage to the middlemen (arthis), commission agent, and/or wholesalers who provide loans to the farmers over the course of production. Vegetables and fruits are transported by the same cart or truck from farms to the main markets in the absence of specialized vehicles for specific products. The same vehicle is used for many other purposes including animal transportation. Recently however, reefer (refrigerated) trucks have been introduced on a limited scale in some parts of Pakistan. In the absence of direct access of carrier vehicles to the farms, farmers gather their products in a convenient spot along the roadside for pickup. When middlemen or contractors are involved, it is their responsibility to collect and transport the produce. The unsold produce in one market is sent to other markets in the same locality.
|Date Palms in Sindh, Pakistan. Photo: Emmanuel Guddu|
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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