China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) phase-II will be initiated very soon in the country. It will include social development, agriculture cooperation, formation of special economic free zones and massive industrialization.According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (2020-2021) the agricultural sector contributes about 24 percent of the country’s GDP, accounts for half of the employed labor force and is the largest source of foreign exchange earnings.
Prime Minister Imran Khan sought support from China to boost the agricultural sector of the country to ensure sustainable development and prosperity. Pakistan is now inching towards modern agriculture and it will be following China’s experience to uplift agro-based industries.
Pakistan Primer termed Chinese agricultural cooperation vital for its further development, utility and consolidation. Thus the importance of CPEC is high for achieving the goals of food surplus and high productivity in the country.
Food security has become a global issue because of numerous interrelated reasons. According to a report by WFP (2017-2018), about sixty percent of the population in Pakistan is food insecure, access to food is limited or uneven, and malnutrition is widespread. Moreover, constant price-hike and inflationary trends have burnt the souls of common people to buy even necessary food items of their lives.
So, CPEC has strategic importance to food security in the country which has numerous socio-economic multiplier effects and dividends too. Further the WFP notes that an average Pakistani household spends more than 50 percent of monthly income on food which makes them particularly vulnerable to food inflation. Thus food security is a serious issue in the country which can be resolved under the flagship projects of CPEC.
In this connection, unfortunately food security in the country has become a challenge due to several factors including high population growth, rapid urbanization, price fluctuations, erratic food production and inefficient food distribution systems. Climate change is also posing a serious threat to food security and there is a need to make agricultural practices more resilient and sustainable.
Thus bilateral agricultural cooperation between Pakistan and China is the need of the hour to cope with food security problem in the country. Nevertheless, CPEC has become an emerging geopolitical prestige. Therefore, the CPEC platform would be used to build basic infrastructural and agricultural economic zones in the country which may further support to perk up the food security.
Many published research studies vividly reflected the positive impact of various CPEC initiatives on food security of Pakistan. It showed that CPEC initiatives would tend to improve the food security status in Pakistan. It suggested that developing countries like Pakistan may use economic corridors such as CPEC as a strategic tool to improve the food security situation. The National Food Security Policy (2014-2015) highlighted a number of measures to promote seed production in the country. These consisted of strengthening and restructuring of Federal Seed Certification and Registration Department; development of the requisite legislative and regulatory support system for development of the modern seed industry and establishing seed technology research and training institute.
In this regard, Chinese expertise and broadening of the CPEC portfolio (phase-II) can certainly help Pakistan achieve its policy objectives. The joint efforts made to enhance seed production will pave way for a healthier and wealthier society.
Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) emphasized the need for better productivity in various potential agriculture sub-sectors to overcome the issue of food security. In this context, the phase-II of the CPEC offers a good opportunity to help the agriculture sector recover, but the government should facilitate common farmers to take advantage of the CPEC. The PARC Chairman called for a business oriented model for alleviating the agriculture sector under the umbrella of CPEC. In this regard, a combination of different commodities and products being manufactured along the CPEC routes has significant potential. There is a huge potential for the production and export of fodder, edible oils and palm oil, whereas pulses and oilseeds are some other lucrative areas which can be invested in parallel to ongoing mega projects of CPEC.
In this regard, careful measures should be taken in the areas of production, diversification, post-harvest handling, processing, certification, and value addition all aimed at converting the harvest into high-value products while enabling them to maintain standards for international trade in which CPEC phase-II role would be terminal.
China is the world’s largest importer of farm produce, and China alone accounts for around 10pc of the world’s total farm produce trade. China is a net importer of bulk agriculture products and there has been rapid growth in its imports from BRI countries. Pakistan can find a vast client in China for crops such as soybean, barley, corn, wheat and cereals which should be promoted under CPEC.
China and Pakistan launched an online platform to collect and display information and achievements of agricultural and industrial cooperation between the two countries, aiming at enhancing bilateral cooperation under the CPEC in the two sectors in January 2021. It is hoped that enhanced cooperation with China in the field of agriculture can bring a green revolution in Pakistan and give stimulus to the economic and social development.
Critical analysis reveals that Pakistan and China have a long history of agricultural cooperation and Pakistan has excelled in many areas due to enhanced bilateral agricultural research and development activities. China has not only established its agricultural sector on modern lines, but also extended its help to countries including Pakistan under the Belt and Road Initiative of which the CPEC is a flagship project, to boost agricultural development.
Being a prominent regional expert of CPEC & BRI, I suggest that mutual agriculture cooperation in the fields of seed industry, agricultural material and machinery, agricultural product processing, agricultural investment and supporting service systems such as warehousing, cold chain and logistics should be initiated as soon as possible to promote the transformation and upgrading of the agricultural sector. It is hoped that agricultural cooperation will not only improve the crop production and ensure food security, but it will also be a fate changer for the people of Pakistan.
Crops like cotton and wheat have been directly affected recently due to severe climate change and unexpected rains in the country. So Pakistan is in need of cooperating with China to produce resistant varieties to better cope with adverse impacts of climate change. Both countries should promote agriculture cooperation in terms of agricultural planting machinery; water-saving irrigation devices; agricultural facilities and equipment; agricultural and sideline product processing machinery; signature agricultural machinery for the production of tea, edible fungus, etc.; garden machinery; agricultural transport machinery; engineering machinery that is applicable in agriculture and various kinds of agricultural machinery accessories.
More focus should be given to agricultural aircraft for seeding, fertilizing, weeding, pest control, etc.; aerial remote sensing technique, measurement technology, and testing equipment; aerial pesticide application technology and spraying equipment; general aviation industrial parks and financial and investment institutions; service enterprises providing services of renting, fixing, maintenance, driver training, etc.
monitoring, precision operation, and intensive feeding technologies and equipment. To conclude both countries should also extend cooperation in agriculture drone and artificial intelligence technologies equipment; intelligent irrigation equipment and system; intelligent control, environmental perception, remote