LAHORE:The federal government should play a leading role in ensuring food security and control on prices. The government should introduce special industrial zones in farm districts and they should have the facilities of cold storages, food-processing units, connection with retail chains and export industries. These views were expressed by experts in a webinar titled “COVID-19, an Opportunity to Reform the Agricultural System of Pakistan,” jointly organised by the Pakistan Biotechnology Information Centre (PABIC) Lahore Chapter, CropLife Pakistan and Forman Christian College, Lahore.
The webinar was attended by scientists, policymakers, representatives from leading biotech institutes, academia, crop science industry, farmers and other stakeholders. FCC postgraduate studies Dean and PABIC Director Lahore Dr Kauser Malik highlighted that crop biotechnology had all the ways to make the agricultural sector of Pakistan flourish. The government needs to focus on supporting small and marginalised farmers and promote small-scale innovative technologies to promote growth in this sector. A lot of strategic planning is needed in streamlining the biotechnology products in the country.
“Improving water management is key as the four major crops, i.e. rice, wheat, sugar cane and cotton, consume 80 per cent of water but contribute only 5 per cent to GDP. Improving the nexus of agriculture, education, training and research and technology is the need of the hour,” Dr Kauser explained. COMSTECH Coordinator General Prof Dr Iqbal Choudhary said that during pandemic period the science had demonstrated the true spirit of researchers to find solutions under limited national capacity.
CropLife Asia Executive Director Dr Sianghee Tan said the global pandemic played havoc on food supply systems in Pakistan and across Asia. The existing issues across the food value chain have been exposed and exacerbated by COVID-19, while new ones have been created as well. “Our responsibility as stakeholders is to ensure that the men and women who drive food security across the region are supported to do just that. “This includes providing policies that enable and empower our farmers to produce more safe and nutritious food on less land and with fewer impacts on the world around us”, he commented PARC former Chairman Dr Yusuf Zafar give a wake-up call to modernise the grain storage and reporting systems in Pakistan and said that the way forward was revisiting the procurement policies, incentivising the private sector for grain storage and involving foreign investment to develop modern storage and handling system. He said strong coordination between API, PBS, SUPRCO and provincial CRS departments was crucial for the success of this sector.
Representative of CropLife Pakistan, Murtaza Quddusi briefed the participants on various disruptions to the agriculture supply chain due to COVID lockdowns across the country and rest of the world. He highlighted the potential of digital technologies for farmer outreach and knowledge dissemination activities, and shared the success of CropLife member companies in overcoming physical restrictions to serve the farmers through such innovative methods.