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ADB study underlines: new development strategy paradigm imperative for agriculture growth

FAISALABAD (December 24 2008): Asian Development Bank (ADB) emphasised the need for a new development strategy paradigm for sustainable growth of agriculture in Pakistan, which will have to be based on moving into higher technological orbits, reformation of marketing systems, and moving towards value addition through processing and branding of agri-based products for export viability.

This was disclosed by a study of Asian Development Bank`s consultants and experts. According to ADB study, the sources of agriculture growth in the past were mainly due to area expansion, extensive use of water resources, and technological improvements.

Growth through area expansion and extensive use of water has reached its point of diminishing marginal returns. Relying on expansion of these physical resources as drivers of growth will not be a technically viable option in the future.

With a growing population, limited land use intensive based technologies that are being developed, increasing areas of degraded land, and a skewed land ownership structure, there is hardly any cultivable land that would be available for agriculture.

While there is about 8 million has of culturable wasteland or farm area that at present are unfit for cultivation, a huge investment will be required to turn these into productive farmland.

Further, current agronomic practices and other factors, which are discussed in the next chapter impede the prevention of existing quality land from deteriorating and from investing in the conversion of culturable wasteland into usable land base.

ADB report pointed out that depending on extensive extraction of water resources as a means to improve or maintain production levels is also not a viable route in the future. Both ground and freshwater are becoming a scarce commodity, as demand for this resource to satisfy competing uses continue to intensify. Like land, water has been allocated irrationally and inefficiently, resulting to the lowering of water levels and deterioration of its quality.

Studies have shown that even under a low demand scenario and with an assumption of increasing water use efficiency by the year 2024/25, there would be a shortfall of around 23% under the existing supply scenario. Clearly, overall water availability will be a serious constraint on future agriculture crop growth.

ADB study mentioned that the increased cropping intensity through intensive use of land and water resources was another growth source factor until the 1980s, after which the growth of multiple cropping levelled off.

It said that water shortage and land degradation are the basic factors for the variation in cropping intensities. Extrapolations based on the past cropping intensity trends do not reflect much potential for the cropping intensity to increase markedly in the future, it added.

This may change with the development of relevant technologies but as discussed in the next chapter, the present approach to research and extension coupled with the limited access to credit, appropriate market infrastructure, and markets, if continued, will not ensure sustained production and dissemination of appropriate technologies for improved crop productivity, ADB study revealed.

ADB study said that the use of green revolution technologies and the appropriate agronomic practices served as the major impetus for yield growth especially for the major crops. With limited technological breakthroughs (particularly for the potential minor crops) and unchanging technical practices, growth from yield improvements has also stagnated.

ADB experts observed that the productivity growth from genetic breakthroughs combined with appropriate agronomic practices will not be available nor will these be easily accessible especially to the major smallholders unless major reforms are taken in research and extension, and rural finance, it added.

ADB study said a confluence of factors will be needed to expand the production frontiers of the crop sub-sector; the major bottlenecks impeding the growth potentials of the sector are identified and discussed in the next chapter.

In essence, ADB report stated that the lesson learned from the past experience is that doing `more of the same` to unleash the growth potentials of the griculture/farm sector will not likely yield as much results. A new development strategy paradigm is required for sustainable growth.

The new Agriculture Strategy will have to be based on moving into higher technological orbits, reformation of marketing systems, and moving towards value addition through processing and branding of agri-based products for export viability.

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