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Sunday April 14, 2024

Pakistan can save $10 billion yearly through agri exports to Gulf states, China: official

Shahid Nazir said collaborations in the agriculture sector had already started with Gulf countries

By News Desk
February 24, 2024
A speaker addresses the audience during the third Dairy Agriculture, Livestock Fisheries and Advance Technology Cattle Show in Karachi in this still on February 23, 2024. — Facebook/Badar Expo Solutions and DALFA PAK
A speaker addresses the audience during the third Dairy Agriculture, Livestock Fisheries and Advance Technology Cattle Show in Karachi in this still on February 23, 2024. — Facebook/Badar Expo Solutions and DALFA PAK

KARACHI: Pakistan can save $10 billion per year through import substitution in the agriculture sector and exporting commodities to Gulf states and China, a senior military official said at the inauguration ceremony of the third annual cattle show in Karachi.

The Dairy Agriculture, Livestock Fisheries and Advance Technology (DALFA) Cattle Show is held each year to highlight investment opportunities and advanced technology in the dairy, livestock, agriculture, and fisheries sectors of Pakistan.

Major General Shahid Nazir, Director General of Strategic Projects of the Pakistan Army, said the country imported more than $10 billion worth of agricultural products, calling for the production of exportable surplus to earn much-needed foreign exchange.

“Pakistan can save about $10 billion per year through import substitution in the agriculture sector and exporting commodities to Gulf states and China,” Nazir told reporters after the inauguration of the cattle show.

He said the recently launched Green Pakistan Initiative, a joint effort between the Pakistan government and the army, would help improve the country’s agricultural development and grant unutilized lands to farmers to produce better yields using advanced technology.

“Under the initiative advanced technology will be incorporated and the actual potential of Pakistan’s agriculture sector will be explored to achieve self-reliance,” Nazir said. “We are facing the big challenge of foreign exchange and so there are two ways to earn the foreign exchange by saving $10 billion plus which are being spent on the import of agriculture products.”

He said collaborations in the agriculture sector had already started with Gulf countries. “We have cultivated wheat on about 100,000 acres of land and are preparing for cotton and sunflower. In Sindh [province], for the first time, more than 4 million bales have been produced,” Nazir said.

A new Special Investment Facilitation Council was set up in July last year to serve as a“one window operation” for foreign investors, with a special focus on attracting funds from Gulf nations. The initiative is a collaboration between the Pakistan army and government, with military officials including the arm chief holding key positions.

The central bank deputy goveror said the SBP is working on a new project to boost the agriculture sector, which could help solve many of the country's economic woes. Saleem Ullah, speaking at the cattle show, said the project would provide easier access to finance for small farmers and improve their productivity by supplying them with quality inputs.

The agriculture sector, which accounts for about a fifth of Pakistan's gross domestic product and employs nearly half of its workforce, had been neglected for too long. "If the agriculture sector is developed, most of the important problems facing Pakistan's economy can be solved, including problems such as limited growth rate of economic development, inflation, unemployment, food security," he said.

Saleem Ullah said Pakistan imported $10 billion worth of agricultural products every year, and that developing the livestock and fisheries sectors could save $8 to $9 billion of that amount, while also keeping prices at a reasonable level to reduce inflation.

"The SBP has a special focus on the development of agriculture, and the new project would be launched in the next two to three months." Saleem Ullah said 75 percent of small farms relied on non-traditional methods of financing, which imposed harsh conditions on them.

"The second priority in the new agriculture development plan will be to increase the productivity of small farmers for which the supply of agricultural inputs will be facilitated in collaboration with various stakeholders."