Wednesday December 06, 2023

Tractor industry demands integrated food security policy

October 14, 2022

LAHORE: Pakistan is in dire of an integrated food security policy, covering all the segments, vital to increasing farm production, ranging from mechanisation of farms, availability of modern seeds and climate-resistant variants of crops, and research and development, a farm industry official said.

"My tractor industry has already started developing efficient tractors and implants to increase the per acreage yields and crop productivity," said Malik Ehtisham, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Al-Ghazi Tractors Ltd (AGTL) in an interview with The News.

“The situation is not ideal always. The businesses must work in all situations so our company continues its struggle, even though our over Rs4.5 billion refunds are stuck with the FBR (Federal Board of Revenue)."

He said the country lacked a food security policy.

"Pakistan is going through a big transformation. We are now a net importer of wheat. Enhancing the arable land, more mechanisation and technology could increase productivity. We need a dedicated food security policy, which protects not only the tractor industry but also the seed and fertiliser sectors and the supply chain mechanism of agricultural products."

Ehtisham said the food security policy should focus on how to increase crop yields.

"The farmers are a community and the government should deal with them as a community. The yield could not increase alone with a high-end Rs10 million tractor but rather with an integrated food security policy."

Ehtisham said that Pakistan should be an exporter of agricultural products rather than a net importer.

"Pakistan has four seasons which are required for farming and it can produce anything. Climate change has been changing the global weather pattern and now the Europe bread basket is heavily under stress due to it. The crops yields patterns are different in the world. The middle east has a high consumption pattern of agricultural products as compared to production."

He said the tractor sector should fall under the auto policy but the food security policy.

"As the auto policy will come in three years of the time but the food security policy should not wait for that long and tractors should be part of the policy."

Ehtisham believed that globally companies faced challenges and coped with them and the situation in Pakistan was no different.

“We didn’t do a drama by shutting down the plant despite facing a liquidity crunch due to Rs4.5 billion refunds stuck with the FBR. We don’t want to create panic in the market. Rather, we are working hard with banks and dealers to give plans of buying tractors on instalments. Despite all the stress, the company delivers the tractors in three to four days after full payment," he added.

Further, he said, Al-Ghazi had started a multi-billion rupees investment in technology, research and development, and product improvement to meet global standards. The global experts were now part of the company to enhance overall product quality and launch the latest technology in tractors, the AGTL CEO added.

“We have also worked on fuel efficiency, durability, and performance. We also extended our warranty period to 18 months, which no one offers in the sector," he added.

Ehtisham said more than 90 percent of AGTL tractor parts were produced in Pakistan and it was a big achievement.

"Of all the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), we are one of the biggest contributors and we feel proud of it. However, there are some parts like fuel injection pumps etc. which are not available in Pakistan due to the technology and the company is working aggressively to localise those parts. The company is keeping its imports at an extremely minimal level."

Ehtisham mentioned that the company always stood by all the government initiatives and pledged to play its part in creating favorable export opportunities., adding, the tractor industry was not that strong in exports. "However, the AGTL technology partners have paved the way regarding the export of tractors by providing access for the exports to 3 countries in Africa, Sri Lanka, and a few others. The company has already started deputing export-focused experienced people."

The AGTL aims to continue this plan in these foreign countries by doing surveys and starting the exports of Pakistan-based technologies, which are compatible with the farmers and the soil conditions. The AGTL is going to launch its export drive to East African countries and in central Asia countries as well like Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. These countries have a huge potential and the AGTL is aiming to expand its export business to these countries as well."

In the end Ehtisham urged the government to announce incentives for the industry.