LAHORE - Pakistan has been ranked as one of the least spending countries as far as agriculture research is concerned, which deprives farmers of higher productivity benefits besides increasing his or her cost of production significantly. “Instead of investing on research and innovation, Pakistan’s agriculture sector is focused on increased use of inputs, including fertilisers, pesticides and water, which led to stagnation in productivity,” said Dr Mubarik Ali, Chief Executive Punjab Agriculture Research Board (PARB). He was speaking at a consultative meeting with members of the Agricultural Journalists’ Association (AJA) here on Saturday.
Our agriculture production is not picking up and we have to import billion of rupees worth of pulses, fruit and vegetables every year, he said. Citing the example of regional countries, Dr Ali underlined that Pakistan had the lowest spending on agriculture research among almost all the world key nations and it was too on declining trend.
He pointed out that the country was hardly investing 0.25 to 0.29 per cent of its agriculture GDP on research and development (R&D), whereas India was investing 0.4 per cent, Bangladesh 0.35 per cent, China 0.6 per cent and Japan 2.5 per cent of respective agriculture GDP. On the other hand, developed world was investing 2-3 per cent of its agriculture GDP on R&D, he added.
PRAB chief further highlighted that inappropriate use of funds; obsolete research infrastructure; little or no commercialisation and lack of innovation among scientists were a few other impediments affecting agriculture growth in the country. The root cause of the problems include little investment on research, inappropriate investment, lack of coordinated planning, lack of monitoring & evaluation, focused on routine, rather than problem-solving research, little Incentive to be Innovative and last but not the least little commercialisation of research,” he elaborated.
On the one hand, he indicated, Pakistan was on the lowest side when it came to invest in R&D, while on the other hand, a major chunk of investment—around 85 per cent went to administrative expenditures, like salaries, transport and maintenance of research facilities.
CEO PARB appreciated the role of Higher Education Commission (HEC) and Punjab government for revamping the education and research facilities in the country. However, he said, after the passage of 18th Constitutional Amendment, the HEC role had been marginalised, which resulted in that educational and research institutes were again being neglected. Grants now had been reduced, ultimately affecting research work, he maintained.
Highlighting the significance of R&D, Dr Ali said, “These are scientists and research institutes’ efforts that the country is producing nearly five times more grains when it is compared with the levels of pre-partition. It is the fruit of research that per capita consumption of food products has increased 15 to 20 per cent, while spending on food has dropped from 85 per cent to 65 per cent during last several decades.
Speaking about the initiatives taken by the PARB, Dr Mubarak pointed out that though the board had been revamped in 2007, but it had to spend initial two years in making rules and regulations. However, now it had been working effectively and efficiently and had received 372 research proposals, out of which 65 had been approved by the technical working group after rigorous deliberations.
To overcome research related problems, he observed, PARB is now poised to plan, coordinate, fund, monitor, and commercialise specific agriculture research outputs in Punjab, the biggest agrarian economy of country.
He told that audience including representatives of educational institutions and farmers that revamping of agriculture research had resulted in focused, result-oriented work with greater coordination among various institutions.
Talking about strategy of PARB, he said, focus is being diverted to high priority research with the involvement of stakeholders besides funding projects on competitive basis. He added that effective research monitoring and commercialisation of research outputs are being ensured besides offering lucrative incentives to scientists. Efforts are also being made to enhance international collaboration and increasing capacity building of various agriculture research stations through greater spending on infrastructure.
He said breakthrough has been made in developing CLCV resistant cotton varieties at experiment level and its field trials are being initiated. He added that various approaches had been employed to overcome problem of CLCV, which has emerged as one of the potent threats to this cash crop. Issues such as control of Bacterial Leaf Blight-BLB for paddy, major progress in bran oil extraction, citrus waxing through indigenous resources, first ever propagation of date palm by tissue culture, successful olive propagation & value addition technique and productivity enhancement of buffalo through efficient management also highlighted on the occasion.
Prof. Dr. Talat Naseer Pasha, Vice-Chancellor, University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (UVAS) said research work in education institutions was now being better coordinated and expedited following setting up of PARB. He added that special attention now also been given to livestock and dairy sector. He expressed that hope that such efforts would help in addressing one of the key issues of our agriculture sector in most efficient way.
Dr. Tariq Bucha, President, Farmers Associates Pakistan (FAP) stressed the need of increasing interaction between scientists and farmers. He added that farmers, being ultimate beneficiary of research, should be fully involved in identifying research project besides creating linkages at grassroots level.
Safraz Khan, Vice President Kissan Board Pakistan (KBP) said small farmers, being biggest shareholder in farming and dairy sector should be given priority while initiating research work. He said various aspects of agriculture research should be properly discussed with representatives of farmer organisation.