FAISALABAD-Punjab Agriculture Secretary M Mahmood on Saturday said that steps are afoot to increase the agricultural productivity and fine-tune the research agenda to address the problems of farming community.

"It aims to improve liaison between research workers and marketing system," he said while chairing a meeting at the University of Agriculture Faisalabad (UAF).

The secretary said that conferences would be arranged twice in a year in which extension workers and researches from all universities in the Punjab would be called to get about the latest information. He said that the steps would help fill the gap between research and extension workers.

He said that the Agro Ecological Zones are being redefined that will help boost up the agricultural productivity. He directed the committee of agrological zone to keep the latest methods in view and after completing their work, send the report to the international agencies for evaluation. He said that the research and development boards are being established in all the crop research institutes in the province.

He said that the government would set up a Directorate of Agri Education and Extension. He said that Punjab government was revamping agricultural policy with the special focus on farmers to address their problems that will untimely increase the productivity and help alleviate poverty.

He said that all the stakeholders including farmers associations, agricultural industry, scientists and political leadership would be taken on board in order to address their problems and to increase the productivity. He called for identifying prioritised areas to work with solution and strategy for the betterment of the agricultural sector. He said that the key elements in agriculture sector are revolving around crop, land and farmers. He was of the view that collaborative work will come up with viable agro zones that will boost up the agriculture.

UAF Vice Chancellor Dr Iqrar Ahmad said that the University would kick off a master programme for agricultural practitioners. He said that the University intends to start students' internship program with the Punjab government to impart training for four months.

He said that farmers-friendly policy with the focus on rural development was being devised for the development of the agriculture sector. He said that rules and regulations regarding pesticides, fertilisers and seeds are also be made in the proposed policy. High value crops, post-harvest losses and alternative diversification inputs are highlighted in the policy for making the agriculture a profitable business. He showed his concern that rainfall volatility, increased drought and rising temperatures affect crop yields.

He said that the government was taking revolutionary steps for the uplift of the sector including Kissan package, subsidised fertilisers and electricity.