Recently, Dr Muhammad Afzal Khan Dhandla, an MNA from NA-98 Bhakkar, suggested in his speech in the National Assembly that Pakistan should focus on agriculture if it wanted to establish itself on a solid basis in the long run. He believes that competing with the world nations in industrial productivity is far harder than making some mark on the agricultural scene of the globe. However, he regrets that despite terming the agriculture sector the backbone of the national economy, it was never given the topmost priority as far as its development and promotion is concerned.
It is a reality that agriculture constitutes the largest sector of the national economy. A majority of the population is dependent on this sector, directly or indirectly. It contributes about 24 percent to gross domestic product (GDP) and accounts for half of the employed labour force and is the largest source of foreign exchange earnings. It feeds the whole rural and urban population, but the number of farmers has never changed during the past seven decades. Important crops of Pakistan include wheat, cotton, rice, sugarcane, and maize but a majority of producers have always lived a miserable life.
It is regrettable that despite having fertile land and one of the longest irrigation networks in the world, Pakistan is not included in the top 10 agricultural producing countries of the world. On top of the list stands China as an agricultural producing country. It has 7% of arable land and with it, they feed 22% of the world’s population. In the 20th century, China struggled to feed its large population. After that, upgrading farming policies and technologies made it self-sufficient.
It would be surprising to know for many that compared with China’s 7% arable land, Pakistan’s arable land area was reported at 40.12 % in 2020, according to a World Bank report. Arable land includes areas defined by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations as the tracts under temporary crops (double-cropped areas are counted once), temporary meadows for mowing or for pasture, land under market or kitchen gardens, and land temporarily fallow. It must be a point to ponder by the policymakers in the country that Pakistan, despite having such a huge percentage of arable land area compared with China, fails to even feed its population, what to talk of exporting its farm produce. It will also be interesting to note that China’s land is highly employed for agriculture. Vegetables are planted on roads, and on many building walls. In 1949, China lost one-fifth of its arable land, and now only 10% to 15% of its land is adequate for agriculture. It is the largest rice-producing country in the world. With this, they produced soybeans, kaoliang (sorghum), wheat, millet, and corn.
The second country in the agricultural producing nations is the United States of America, which is known for its agriculture science and provides some advanced agriculture technology in the world. It is a role model for many countries in the agriculture sector, and the US agriculture is developing continually with increasing rates. Developing here refers to scientific soil, crop analysis, more innovative machinery, and increased use of computers. In short, one can say that the US is the best country in agricultural technology. But, despite a long association with the US, Pakistan never made serious efforts to import agricultural technology from it.
The third place on the list is occupied by Brazil, which is believed to be one of the best agricultural countries historically. Around 41% of the total land is arable in Brazil. It has an entire land of 2.1 billion acres and the area occupied by farming is almost 867.4 million acres. The country’s initial production priority was sugarcane. Brazil started farming some 12,000 years ago, with many crops including sweet potatoes, maize, peanuts, tobacco, and many more.
Pakistan can learn a lot from Brazil how to produce the best sugarcane crop. The country is producing 600 million-plus tonnes of the crop every year. Pakistan can also learn the soybeans crop production from Brazil, which it exports to almost all countries of the world.
Pakistan’s neighbouring country, India, is far ahead of it in agriculture production. Agriculture provides around 58% of livelihood to Indians. In recent data, agriculture is the primary source of income for half of the population that contributed 17% to 18% to their GDP. And, India is the largest producer of most of the fruits in the world that includes bananas, guava, mango, lemon, papaya, and vegetables, including chickpea. India produces spices too, that include ginger, pepper, and chili. It is the world’s largest wheat-producing country. Due to many similarities between the two countries in the agriculture sector, Pakistan could learn from its neighbour how to adopt best practices for increasing crops production.
Russia is on number five on the list of top agricultural producing countries. In the country, 13% of agricultural land is used for the production of sugar beet, wheat and potatoes. The cereals are rye, barley, oats, and maize. These are the main crops in Russia. It is mainly engaged in the industrial economy, and it has a huge agriculture industry. Around 6% of the total Russian GDP is occupied by the agriculture industry. With this, the Russian agriculture industry provides 16% of employment opportunities to the general population.
Though France had become an industrial power by 1848, it stands tall among the agricultural countries of the world. It has around 730,000 farms, about 7% of the population earns from agriculture or similar sectors that are fishing or forestry. In France almost everyone is occupied in agriculture-related activities that include producing agricultural goods.
Generally famous for its rich culture, ancient ruins, dazzling beaches and incredible cuisine, Mexico is on seventh place in the list of top 10 agricultural producing countries. In the past, Mexico produced avocados, beans, tomatoes, peppers, maize, and many more. The country is known for its agricultural exports too. The main feature of Mexico agriculture is growing crops and half of the agriculture output comes under crop account.
People generally recognise Japan for its technological advancements and achievements. But it must be informative that the country is the top eighth nation to register itself as an agricultural country. In Japan, around 10% of the population live on farms. They fully support the traditional food culture, which is rice with other food that includes grains, fish, vegetables, mountain plants, and others.
Germany, standing on ninth place among top agrarian countries, produces pork, poultry, potatoes, milk, cereals, beef, sugar beets, cabbages, barley, and wheat. And in most of the regions, it produces vegetables, fruits, and wine. Around 80% of the country’s land is occupied by forestry and agriculture. Approximately 87% of people farm on a land of 124 acres.
Though currently experiencing earthquakes one after the other, Turkiye’s primary occupation is agriculture. The industries and service sectors are increasing constantly, but still the major occupation is farming in the country. It is self-sufficient in food. They have suitable climate conditions, fertile soil, and significant rainfall that allow the production of every type of crop.. In mountain regions, poultry farming is done on a vast scale. In Turkiye, wheat is the most produced grain and the 2nd produced commodity is sugar beet, the third is milk, and the last is cows.
Pakistan would have to make a long-term policy and adopt all modern techniques to win a berth among top ten agricultural producing countries.