Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has directed the Ministry of National Food Security and Research (MNFSR) to come up with an integrated framework to revitalise the agriculture sector, an official source said.
In a letter written to MNFSR on March 5, the prime minister called for immediate measures to overcome issues affecting the agriculture sector in the country. The prime minister has directed MNFSR to immediately start consultative process with the provinces and other stakeholders to finalize recommendations so that allocations for those recommendations can be made in the budget of the financial year 2016-17.
The directions call for revitalizing the agriculture research institutions and reestablishing national research system by synergizing provincial and national research institutes. However, direction has been given that new research funding should be utilized for enhancing research output instead of buildings and hiring unnecessary staff.
The crop diversification and promoting modern techniques have been emphasised for enhancing yield and disease resistance. Recommendations for mitigating impact of climate change on agriculture have also been solicited.
The prime minister has asked the MNFSR to furnish answers on a long term ground water policy for promoting efficient use of scare resources. The PM asked for a comprehensive framework for seed certification, fertiliser availability at affordable prices and regulation of the pesticide business.
The Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Industries were continuously attributing the failure to protect the farming community in the wake of plummeting commodity prices to MNFSR. They are of the opinion that MNFSR is not giving any pragmatic solution to overcome the crisis, the source said.
The MNFSR was created after the passing of the 18th amendment, which led to the devolution of the Ministry of Food Agriculture and Livestock (MINFAL) to provinces. Ever since its establishment the Ministry lacks clear mandate and is devoid of professional human resources which have in turn halted its performance.
The ministry is responsible for national food security but there is no national food security policy, even though it was assigned the task to draft the policy in the Gillani era. The source said the reason for the ministry’s poor performance is the lack of interest shown by the ministers and secretaries heading the ministry.
The ministry did not give any professional advice to the government in managing the surplus wheat and rice stocks. The surplus fruits and other produce rots in the fields as the ministry has no policy in place to promote agriculture processing in the country.
Agriculture research is also the mandate of the ministry, but the ministry has failed to give any recommendations to promote research activity in the country. Pakistani farmers suffered a loss of Rs 125 billion last year after a pink bollworm insect destroyed 5 million bales of cotton.
The official version of the ministry on the cotton losses was that the issue was to be dealt with by the Textile Ministry; they could explain the reasons and suggest remedial measures. On the issue of pesticide residue in grains, fruits and vegetables which have effectively blocked exports, the ministry’s version is that the provinces are responsible as agriculture is a provincial subject. After this kind of lethargic attitude and large number of complaints against the MNFSR, the government decided to take matters into its own hands, the source said.