LAHORE - The Saarc Chamber of Commerce and Industry has urged the government to increase investment in agricultural research in order to boost crop yields and strengthen food security in the country.

Saarc CCI vice president Iftikhar Ali Malik said adopting a unanimous market-oriented agricultural policy could make South Asian region a world leader in agricultural trade just in a decade, besides that agricultural trade within the region will play an instrumental role in poverty alleviation.

He urged the government to grant interest-free agricultural loans on lenient terms and conditions to farmers along with providing relief in water and power consumption. He also asked the farmers to adopt scientific methods to enhance food grain production and reduce imports by using one-fifth of their farming land for lentil cultivation. Underlining the greater readiness to take the bold steps needed to build a prosperous future for Pakistan, Malik suggested another ‘green revolution’ in the country.

He said that priority should be on identifying High-Value Crops (HVCs) of various countries of the region. He said SAARC’s roots lay in Integrated Programme of Action (IPA) Declaration adopted by the foreign ministers of South Asia in 1983 calling for regional cooperation in the areas of agriculture, health, rural development and population.

Elucidating his vision on agricultural trade in the region, he said that agricultural sector is crucial in taking forward the region in the path of prosperity and in this regard South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) has very good provisions. We need to implement these provisions for the benefit of people of this region, he added.

The chairman of Guard Group further said there is dire need of setting up ultra modern agriculture research centers across the region for the study and research on various crops for better yield. Now it is high time that we must need to education farmers on ways to boost productivity as cultivable land is shrinking with every passing year.

He said the SAARC nations, at this stage, must not lose their focus on this front because they have the core competence in the sector and their economies are dominated by it.

“We should do a lot to materialise the dream of making South Asia a world trade leader and poor connectivity is considered as a major drawback for expansion of agriculture business in the South Asian region while tariff and non-tariff barriers are also other obstacles in trade promotion,” he said. He said there is also a need of creating a mechanism for technology transfer within South Asia.

He said amid the diversities, challenges faced by SAARC countries, such as poverty, unemployment, inflationary pressure, unfavourable trade balance, high budget deficits and climate change are common. However, despite common problems, the policies adopted by the members are contradictory to one another.