FAISALABAD-Agricultural experts at a consultative meeting on Saturday called for building dams, farm mechanisation, climate resilient varieties, mitigation strategy of climate change and demonstration of modern agricultural practices in the country.

They also stressed the usage of Information and communication for agriculture sector and measures to control deteriorating ground water quality.

The meeting titled ‘prioritisation of research areas’ was organised by US-Pakistan Centre for Advanced Studies (USPCAS) in Agriculture and Food Security, University of Agriculture Faisalabad (UAF).

Addressing on the occasion, former National Assembly speaker Fakhar Imam said that at the time of inception of the country in 1947, agriculture sector would contribute 50 percent to the Gross Domestic Product. However, the sector is taking 21 percent share in the GDP now, he said.

He added that India was providing heavier subsidy in the sector than Pakistan does. He said that like wheat, the support price mechanism for the maize, cotton, and other crops need to be initiated. He lamented that per capita water availability had declined to 800 cubic meter which was 5,000 cubic meter in 1947. “The water scarcity is hitting the national economy. But unfortunately, we have failed to build a big dam in the last 42 years. Floriculture has gained immense importance but the country share in international markets is negligible. Investment on floriculture will bring development and prosperity,” he said.

He said, “We have to import machinery. By promoting the seedless citrus, we can increase its export with good profit margin.” He added that the four decades ago, per acre yield of the cotton of India and Pakistan was approximately equal. However, now India is getting 40 mounds and China 35 mounds compared to 10 mounds yield in Pakistan per acre.

UAF Vice Chancellor Dr Iqrar Ahmad, Dr Manzoor Hussain, Dr Anjum Ali Bhuttar, Dr Nancy from University of California, US; Dr Kauser Abdullah Malik; Afzal Rizvi, Faisal Shah; USPCAS Chairs Dr Muhammad Jahanzeb Cheema, Dr Bushra Sadia, Dr Ashfaq Chattha, Dr Baber Shahbaz and Dr Ashfaq also spoke.

Dr Waqar stressed a need developing the heat tolerant germplasm of the different crops. He said that climate change was posing serious threat to the agriculture and the people’s health.

He said, “We have to develop strategies to mitigate the effect of climate change and carbon. The world is using the precision agriculture that increases the productivity from less resources. Our farmers have to move towards the mechanisation.” He urged the scientists to develop the seeds suitable for mechanisation farming.”

He said that the agriculture land was being converted into the residential colonies, adding that it is a matter of concern. He said that the Punjab government was giving interest-free loan of Rs100 billion to the farmers, that is a hallmark step. He added that the -increasing population was causing serious challenges for which we have to educate the people about the population control.

Dr Rai Niaz Ahmad from Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi said that the country must have the demonstration place for the modern technology in order to guide the farming community about the trends. He said that agricultural graduate internship at rural schools will help address the issue of the agriculture with the awareness among the school students. He said that the high efficiency irrigation system was vital to address the issues of the water scarcity.

Habibullah Bhutta, a farmer, said that Allah Almighty had blessed Pakistan with the tremendous resources. “It is our responsibility to tap the potential for the benefit of the mankind. Water is the basic need for the life. But we are not taking care of the blessing. India is building dams but we could not build a single dam for the last 40 years. Muslims are 24 percent of the world population and have 40 percent of the world resources. We lag behind the world because we do not pay the attention to make strides in science and technology.”