Mohammad Tariq Bucha A majority of planners, rulers, and all the industrial and trading circles agree that agriculture is the one and only sector that can lift Pakistans growth rate in the shortest possible time. I have, therefore, prepared an agricultural reform plan to support and boost Pakistans agriculture sector, especially with the aim to modernise it and attract more investment. The agricultural sector in Pakistan has always responded positively to incentives. Incentives result in faster growth and faster growth in agriculture happens also because of the confidence of the stakeholders, i.e. the farmers. One should, however, be cautions and not unrealistic to expect repeated rising growth due to linked reasons like weather, water availability, etc. Despite all this, there is a great potential in our agricultural sector to grow faster than before, considerably the farmers conditions and the economy. My optimism is based upon the fact that across Pakistan, agribusiness is catching up and new models are being developed to reach out to farmers and consumers, with new technologies. More investments are being in modern supply chains and in organised food retailing, which sells more and more processed food. All this augurs well for this sector. In fact, the trend towards private investment is due to the increasing demand for food and other agricultural commodities. Similarly, with the income level rising, the demand for milk, meat, fruits and vegetables is also increasing. With more urbanisation, many families have opted to use processed, ready-to-eat foods. Pakistan, like India is fast becoming a medium-sized agri-product producer and an exporter/supplier, selling fruits, fish, rice and now wheat to foreign countries. With improved rural infrastructure, the agri-sector will grow rapidly, becoming cost-effective to attract farm produce to the market. Better rural roads, more godowns and cold storages, and improved power supply will result in faster agriculture growth. If this trend continues and the present electricity crisis is averted and better incentives are provided, Pakistani farmers have the capacity to take on the challenge of producing better quality produce at internationally competitive prices. They are now willing to use new technologies and become better organised. Although the present government has promised to give significant importance to the agricultural sector, in practice, a lot needs to be done and practically implemented. Pakistans agriculture still needs to get rid of: ? Lower yields (on the whole). ? Water scarcity and levels. ? Expensive credit. ? Market exploitation. ? Inputs and elements that increase cost, but do not add much value. ? Cumbersome laws (an impediment to private investment). ? Manipulated and controlled prices. ? Poor infrastructure. ? Produce quality (as compared with international standards). ? Insufficient, inappropriate and non-productive research. These factors hamper the farmers, and eventually the industry. In addition, agriculture though being a provincial subject - even after the 18th Amendment - continues to be a federal subject; the policymakers in Islamabad do not understand the ground realities. Therefore, unless these problems are understood and resolved, Pakistan will never become self-sufficient, and the dream of a stable and progressive economy will never materialise. The country will remain dependent on loans that will jeopardise both its food security and sovereignty, despite having the potential of becoming the breadbasket of the world. One believes that agricultural reforms with increased private investment will benefit farmers, especially when small farmers are the largest component (nearly 85 percent). More so, with the continuous fragmentation of landholdings due to various factors, it is essential that the farmers would benefit by regulated corporate investment in agriculture, especially in three areas like access to competitive sources of finance; competitive markets to sell produce; and continued access to latest research and the knowledge providers. In fact, the time has come when there should be a 'farmers and industry alliance to bring companies and farm leaders together, as a first step to greater cooperation between two natural partners. This development will be a significant step towards bringing the farmers and the members of the corporate sector together. According to my analysis, agriculture in Pakistan is even in 2011 like the industry of early 90s. The private sector is eagerly awaiting policy reforms that would allow it to make larger investments in this sector. In my view, the Agri-Reform Plan should include the following 10 points: ? Encourage and allow incentives to the private sector and the farmers. This would allow competitive markets to develop; farmers and agri-processors will both gain. The government should also support the organised private sector in increasing its spending on extension and technology transfer. This would give farmers the knowledge of what to grow and how to grow, so that the internationally required quality standards are also adhered to. ? Introduce designated cropping zones. ? Immediately prepare a complete database for wheat growers to save farmers from the exploitation of procuring authorities. ? Allow 'tax holiday to processed foods and value-added food industry, so that the sector picks up: Consequently, demand for farm produce will increase. ? Target foreign buyers of high-value typical Pakistani foods, as opposed to commodity exports starting with the large Pakistani population working and earning abroad, which can be a huge market, specifically halal branding of Pakistani food. ? Create a viable model of public-private partnership that allows private investors to invest in agriculture infrastructure in partnership with banks and financial institutions. ? Modern irrigation systems, along with conservation, should immediately be adopted and flood irrigation discouraged, even with punitive actions. ? Capacity building of farmers should be taken up to acquaint and train them about latest techniques in agriculture and management methods for better yields and viability. ? A special facility of Kisan Helpline be introduced to guide on the same pattern as Kisan Call Centre in India. ? Irrespective of any consideration, immediate action be taken to construct water reservoirs, including Kalabagh Dam without which any other measure will be short-term and prove unfructuous. In reality, the best course would be to have an Open Minded Purpose Agriculture Summit of farmers, industrialists, policymakers, and financial institutions to formulate, suggest and implement reforms in the agricultural sector. It should be presided over by the Prime Minister, flanked by Chief Ministers, and Federal Ministers of Food and Agriculture of all the provinces and the federal government, besides the major stakeholders. The summit should highlight and discuss policy matters and other relevant issues, including agricultural marketing, retailing, wasteland development, risk management, farm extension, farm mechanisation, contract farming and finance. Everyone in Pakistan is well aware of the problems faced by our agricultural sector, while there are many who are unaware of its achievements, particularly its contribution to the economy, food security and sovereignty of the country. The sector has time and again saved Pakistan with its hefty contribution of 21 percent to GDP and a sustained growth rate. Our policymakers though cognisant have to be reminded that in these trying and difficult times Pakistans economy can only turn around and stabilise in the shortest time of one year through incentives and subsidies granted to the agricultural sector. That will eventually help our predominantly agri-based industry flourish, besides alleviating poverty, since even now more than 65 percent population below subsistence level lives in the villages. The writer is the president of the Malik Khuda Bakhsh Bucha Agriculture Foundation, and chief coordinator of the Farmers Associates Pakistan.