NRP, GoP USAID and USDA join hands for the revival of Agriculture and Livestock sector in Punjab

By-Abdul Muneeb Qamar

Lahore,: Non-Resident Pakistanis (NRP), Govt. of Punjab USAID and USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) in a round table meeting organized at Governor House Lahore on Friday resolved to create a hub in Punjab for international farmers conventions covering South and Central Asian markets. The participants of the meeting discussed farming initiatives in the USA, agricultural problems and proposed solutions in Pakistan, opportunities for smart farming in Pakistan, microfinancing for farmers, and food and nutritional security in Pakistan. Participants discussed that under govt. vision 2025, Punjab would be a food basket for South Asia and Central Asia. 

Lutfullah Bhalli, Country Director of NRP said that we need to get benefits from regional projects like TAPI, CASA 1000, and CAREC in order to revive the agriculture sector and to redress issues of food security. He said that Pakistan has made a big mistake by rejecting the offer of joining BRICS in 2011. He briefs the participants that annual food imports by Pakistan are worth 10 billion USD and the main reason for the increasing food cost is the barren lands of South East Punjab. He said that public-private partnership rules should be launched on the pattern of the US govt. 

Shahab Qarni, Founder NRP, participating through a video link from USA, shared with the participants he has gathered all stakeholders from Europe and North America for the revival of the economy in Pakistan from the platform of this round table meeting. He said that the conversion of agricultural land into commercial land is destroying agricultural potential of Pakistan and pushing Pakistan from a food-sufficient state to a food-security state. 

Zeeshan Baig, CEO Sygenta Pakistan Limited said that only the agriculture sector can save Pakistan as it still has the potential. He said that due to various reasons, low water crops are decreasing and high water consumption crops are increasing despite the looming water crises in Pakistan. He told the participants that Pakistan is producing the highest cost of wheat per kg as compared to the other countries. He said that agriculture should not be treated as separate field or entity but it could reap more benefits if connected with industry and livestock.

Dr. Asif Muhammad Hussain, CEO Chirp Technologies said that smart farming can be launched with latest technology and usage of Artificial intelligence. Being an IT expert, he said that smart farming can produce wonders in Pakistan because of its huge agricultural potential. 

Yaser R. Butter, CEO American Furs suggested to improve animal health. He told the participants that local training by USA experts can generate annual 10 billion USD by improving the quality of livestock. 

Kamran Niazi, USAID/Pakistan Provincial Mission to Punjab talked about the importance of climate resilience in agriculture and energy focus in Pakistan to support rural communities and women empowerment. He said that Punjab California sister state act provides avenues of partnership. Development of agri-economy is vital for the economy of Pakistan. USA has developed their economy on the same lines. 

Kanwal Bukhari, Mission Director USAID said that USAID is providing best possible guidance to utilize women work force in agriculture that would not only help in women empowerment but also improve agriculture sector of Pakistan. She said that Pakistani women are second behind none and strenuously work in fields side by side with men. 

Dr. Anjum Ali, Director General Agriculture Punjab said that Pakistan has the potential of helping agricultural deprived countries but for this, Pakistan would have to become self-sufficient first. He said that those crops that are matured early and consume less water should have to be preferred. He told that govt. is taking all possible measures to prevent food crises in Punjab. Thanking efforts of USAID, he said that Govt. of Punjab welcomes training, guidance and technological help from experts of USA, especially connectivity models of sister states. 

Farhan Nasir, Director Operations NRP said that Pakistan is exporting vegetables worth 800 million USD but it still needs upgradation with the use of technology and advance farming. He said that pattern of USA would have to be adopted for upgradation. He said that loans for farmers should be based on area of land. Their lending capacity may be developed according to their land. 

Dr. Iqrar Ahmad, VC Agriculture University Faisalabad said that quality of seed should be improved and awareness should be created among farmers regarding usage of better quality seeds. He said that high consumption water crops mainly rice and maize should be discouraged. He suggested that maize should be harvested with soya beans. He said that high quality seed will help in increasing exports worth billions of rupees.

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