MIRPUR  - Acting President Azad Jammu and Kashmir Sardar Ghulam Sadiq Khan Saturday emphasised the need for research and development to promote agriculture sector of the state and reduce dependence on food imports.

“It is need of the time that we work for research and development. Unless we conduct research on developing new technologies and crop varieties for different ecologies of the state, the dream of agriculture-rich Azad Kashmir cannot be materialized,” Sadiq Khan said.

He was addressing “National Conference on Growth in Agriculture” organized by Mirpur Chamber of Commerce and Industry here. Agriculture experts and farmers from all the four provinces are participating in the moot.

The acting president said that agriculture was the backbone of country’s economy as it contributes about 24 % to National Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and provides livelihood to majority of country’s population directly or indirectly. It also accounts for half of employed labour force and is the largest source of foreign exchange, besides feeding whole rural and urban population. He said that development of agriculture sector was must for peaceful and respectful existence in the 21st Century He said that the state was having huge potential for horticulture and livestock development, which if properly exploited can boost the economy of this region and contribute in economic development.

The Acting President of AJK said that the state land has huge potential for olive cultivation which can save billions of rupees spent on edible oil imports and can earn foreign exchange by exporting the commodity. He said that the state has also plenty of medicine herbs and if these are protected and cultivated with a proper plan and strategy, it can give boost to the state economy. Besides highlighting the importance of research, the Acting President also underlined the importance of providing subsidies to farmers to bring more and more land under cultivation. He also emphasized on creating market links for the agriculture products of the state.

Meanwhile, speaking on the occasion, Secretary General Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Livestock and Agriculture, Faqir Nusrat Hussain said that state has also potential to raise healthy livestock and help poor families uplift their life standard while the water resources could be utilized for fisheries that could also help boost income of people. Chaudhry Shaukat of Azad Kashmir Chamber of Agriculture and Livestock said that collaborated efforts were needed to develop agriculture sector on modern line.