A+ A-

Pakistan eyeing corporate farming amid rising wheat crisis

ISLAMABAD, Oct 11 (KUNA) -- Amid rising food insecurity across the world and while Wheat crop has been turned into a political crop in the country, Pakistan is entering into corporate farming.
Pakistan is slowly opening to the Corporate Farming and is currently holding talks with foreign investors from at least three Gulf countries including Qatar, UAE and Saudi Arab, an official of the Federal Food Ministry told KUNA on the condition of anonymity.
The official said that a Qatar-based company has shown keen interest in the government's Kollurkar farm located in the Punjab province, near capital. He said a series of talks are being held in this regard and hoped to finalize the feasibility report on it soon.
The official said that the Corporate Farming will create a win-win situation, adding that it will not only satisfy the food needs of the Pakistanis but the government will also have surplus for export as the companies have better technology than our farmers.
Beside, the three countries, said the official, China, Germany and other Gulf countries have also shown interest in corporate farming in Pakistan.
The likely projects of Corporate farming include fruit juice plant, production of furfural from sugarcane bagasses, cattle farming, meat processing, dairy farming, fisheries, horticulture, off-season vegetables production, sunflower hybrid seed production, solvent oil extraction from rice bran, production of mutton through raising of sheep and goats, animal feed mills, and paper board from local fiber.
According to the Board of Invesment (BOI) the available land for corporate farming, as per reports of the provinces, include 31,111 acres in Punjab and 6.
6 million acres in Cholistan.
The idea of Corporate Farming is not a new idea as it is already part of the Companies' Act 1984. However, the new civilian government has started serious work on it after it was suggested by a friendly Middle Eastern state during the President's recent visit to the country.
Unlike the optimism of the federal government, the idea of corporate farming has evoked more fears than hopes among farmers as the new policy package for its implementation involves coordinated work of about eleven ministries including the federal ministry of industries and production and the Board of Investment.
The corporate farming is a beautiful world and in a country like Pakistan it will only create poverty, dislocate thousands of families, Ibrahim Mughal, the head of Pakistan Farmers Forum (PFF), told KUNA.
He said 80 percent of the farming is being done in eastern Punjab province and when the lands will be provided to the private investor it will dislocate 25,000 villages.
He said currently seven million families in Pakistan are doing agribusiness and six million of them have very small holding, adding that recommending corporate farming for 93 percent of these families is "a good joke".
He recommended the government to instead of corporate farming, initiate the policy of contract farming and provide credits and better technology to the local farmers so that the producer remains the owner.
Heavy involvement of bureaucracy is what farmers are afraid of this new policy package of the old idea, said a farmer while declining to divulge his name. He said the middle and low class farmers especially feel threatened by the involvement of foreign companies in this sector.
Pakistan is an agriculture-based economy and wheat has been the most essential commodity of its agribusiness. Despite, large capacity to create wheat surplus, the government has to import a large quantity of it.
It was the wheat shortage that led to the loss of pro-Musharraf government of Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q) in March elections, a fact admitted by the party leadership.
The government has been changed now and has democratic posture but the political pros and cons remain the same. Despite being heavily entangled into militancy and terrorism issue, the main concern of the key war ally the United States, the leading political parties are playing the card of agriculture to make scores against each other.
The PML-N in the eastern Punjab province introduced several packages during Ramadan to provide wheat at cheaper rates, step to boost its credibility.
Though, it is a risky investment but still we lack capital and our farming industry is outdated. We need to look towards other possible options, said Dr. Qais Aslam, a leading economist.
Another farmer, member of the Farmers Association of Pakistan, said that private investment in the sector is the need of hour but it cannot be implemented at the cost of poor farmers. He said it depends on the government how it copes with all the risks involved.
Ramzan Ali, a leading agriculture expert, in his article writes that the world food industry's USD two trillion annual turnover is bringing back transnational companies to the agriculturally rich and fertile lands including ours. He says the idea can prove to be lethal for the poor peasants of our country if appropriate and comprehensive measures are not taken timely by the concerned circles.
He is of the opinion that it will have complex effects on our environment, economy, and urban and rural social fabric. (end) amn.tg KUNA 110901 Oct 08NNNN