Given the poor performance and growth in the agriculture sector in the past, the Punjab Agriculture Commission has called for the reinvigoration of the agriculture industry. In its recommendations to reform the sector, the commission in its policy draft has called for making the agriculture sector a profitable industry by improved infrastructure, enhanced research, and rural development.

However, one factor that hasn’t been mentioned, but should ideally be in the minds of the agricultural policy makers, is the impending Chinese entry into the Pakistani markets. Where China Pakistan Economic Corridor’s (CPEC) benefits to the agricultural economy have been widely extolled, the competition from Chinese agricultural investments rarely been mentioned.

Whereas the commission suggests comprehensive market reforms to gain from regional opportunities offered by CPEC, it should also deliberate very carefully on what agricultural projects under CPEC offers to its agricultural sector. As the CPEC plan reveals, thousands of acres of farmland will be leased out to Chinese enterprises in Pakistan. The local producers with little support from Pakistani government will never be able to compete with the Chinese products.

The commission did have some promising initiatives in this regard, which should be encouraged. On putting a stop to the exploitation of farmers, the commission suggests the government improve infrastructure and establish a legal framework. Such steps will help the farmers in taking part in a more transparent and competitive business if they have quick access to the markets. They will also get more money for their products if the role of middleman is reduced in controlling and deciding the prices of the agricultural commodities. All findings and recommendations of the commission should be met with utmost urgency.

If the state wants to see its agricultural sector a competitive one, the state needs to provide maximum assistance, perhaps even a measure of protectionism.