This year we are celebrating World Food Day during the testing times of COVID-19 pandemic. The crisis has not only worsened the food and nutritional security in Pakistan, but also in several other countries around the globe.
The theme of this year’s World Food Day, “Our actions are our future. Better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life” is absolutely relevant to Pakistan, considering the prevailing situation.
Pakistan is blessed with a rich natural resource base for agriculture. However, despite having one of the world’s best alluvial soils, diverse weather conditions, a large and well-connected irrigation system, assiduous farmers, and proximity to high-end market in the Middle East, Central Asia and China, we have not been able to fully harness the potential of our agriculture sector.
In order to explore full potential of the agriculture sector, my government has launched Agriculture Emergency Program worth Rs. 277 billion; an unprecedented allocation for the sector. This initiative is aimed at enhancing the productivity of wheat, rice, sugarcane, pulses, and oilseed crops, besides developing livestock and water sector. Under this program, my government is supporting farmers by furnishing quality seeds of improved varieties, providing farm machinery at subsidized rates, and disseminating improved production packages.
Our government is also extending Kissan Cards to farmers, especially the smaller ones, for modernizing the agriculture sector. Through this card, farmers will get benefits of various government programs, such as crop loans and subsidies on fertilizers, seeds and pesticides.
My government is also paying special attention to environmental conservation for addressing the climate change issue. We have launched Eco-System Restoration Initiative (ESRI) at national level, under which we have begun action to plant 10 Billion Trees throughout Pakistan. For the implementation of the initiative, we have committed US$ 50 million from our own resources.
Due to government’s favorable policies, the production of wheat, rice, maize, sugarcane, potato, onion and groundnut has increased to a record level despite COVID pandemic. This year has been remarkable for agriculture sector of Pakistan, and our economy got a boost with record agricultural production, indicating a lesser reliance on food imports in 2021-22. Additionally, due to our favorable policies and interventions, the exports of agro-commodities have also increased significantly, including those of mangoes by 28.6%, of citrus by 31.25% and potatoes by 28%.
Finally, I would reiterate that all development partners, NGOs, civil society organizations and social protection agencies should work together to ensure access to safe and nutritious food for all.
Not to be published/ telecasted/ broadcasted by print/electronic media before the October, 15, 2021: World Food Day