ISLAMABAD - Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal has directed the authorities concerned to establish a quick response system to help farmers deal with the cotton crop-related diseases.

“Drop in the per acre yield of cotton is a matter of serious concern as it is the mainstay of our agriculture and textile industry and has a vital role in increasing economic growth and development,” Ahsan Iqbal said while chairing a high level meeting to review cotton crisis in Pakistan. The meeting was attended by federal and provincial agriculture and textile officials, agriculture experts, researchers and farmers.

The minister said that agriculture sector had been facing many challenges due to climate change and crash of agricultural commodities prices in international markets. “We have to focus on increasing productivity and lowering cost of inputs,” he said. Ahsan Iqbal said that government was making an all-out effort to increase agriculture sector productivity and address the problems of the farming community. The government has offered incentives in budget for agriculture sector by decreasing prices of inputs and waived off GST on many agriculture related items, in order to make them cheaper to the farmers, he added.

He further highlighted that farmers were facing tough conditions in many countries because of the crash of international commodity prices. Minister said that if cotton crop had not been affected the economy would have grown by 5.5 pc.

Minister stressed the need for reforming research in agriculture sector to produce high quality seeds for increase in agriculture productivity. He said that under China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) local farming community should get benefit from the Chinese expertise through exchange of knowledge and research in agriculture sector.

Ahsan Iqbal urged all stakeholders to work closely in wake of devolution to coordinate their efforts. He said the working group will meet on quarterly basis to review implementation of group’s recommendations.