Better Cotton Initiative in Pakistan

Food value chain experts at CABI have worked alongside the Pakistan Government to produce an Agricultural Transformation Plan (ATP) which is aimed at boosting the country’s economy by US$10bn a year and creating millions of new jobs.

Dr Mubarik Ali is team leader of the ‘Cluster Development-Based Agriculture Transformation Plan-Vision 2020 Project’ where 59% of the initial investment will go towards developing Pakistan’s value chain and processing infrastructure.

This will then be followed by investment on planting material to renovate fruit gardens on 33 ‘agricultural commodity clusters’ made up of goods including Carrots, turnips, cherries, chillies, citrus, dates, flowers, Mango, grapes, potatoes and spices etc.

CABI’s Central and West Asia office in Rawalpindi was commissioned to write the ATP which will convert Pakistan’s agriculture from a supply-driven to a demand-oriented sector that can compete in the national and international markets through vertical integration rather than horizontal expansion of value chain activities.

The project, which was led by CABI with support of Pakistan’s Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives, has set a target of improving the country’s agricultural export value by 10-20% higher than the existing level in consultation with stakeholders.

It will seek to do this by adopting a cluster-based approach. It will focus on farm productivity, harvest and post-harvest losses, trade performance, quality of produce, small-scale processing and farm and value chain operations – at both an institutional and production level.

Linking farmers with markets by strengthening the marketing capacity of Farmers Entrepreneur Groups (FEGs) – such as establishing the collection centres and pack-houses in rural areas, promoting contract farming and establishing information blogs on various production and marketing aspects – will also be key to the project’s success.

Currently, losses in Pakistan’s agriculture, both in terms of quantity and quality are high ranging from 20-50% mainly because of poor harvest and post-harvest management.

About 5-15% of these losses occur at the harvesting time; aflatoxin infestation is common in many agricultural commodities; high pesticide residue and lack of traceability and certification are emerging issues bothering the traders which reduces the country’s chance to compete in national and international markets.

“Lack of investment on value chain development is the main cause of Pakistan’s failure to get the world average export price,’ Dr Ali argues. “Sometime, failure of Pakistani traders to present the product in a manner in which importing country consumers prefer is also a cause. Many domestic consumers also complain about failing to get the desired quality in the domestic market.”

Mr Muhammad Jehanzeb Khan, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission of the Pakistan Ministry of Planning, Development & Special Initiatives, has commented, “In many developed and developing countries, the cluster-based development approach has become the basis for the transformation of various sectors of the economy including the agriculture sector.”

“This approach not only improves efficiency of development efforts by enhancing stakeholders’ synergistic collaboration to resolve issues in the value chain in their local contexts, but also helps to gather resources from large number of small investors into the desirable size needed for the cluster development.”

It has been analysed that out of the total 33 commodities where comparable export data is available, 16 commodities have ‘low growth potential in both quantities and values when compared with the respective world averages,’ Dr Ali reports.

Dr Ali suggests that the causes of low or deteriorating export-production ratio root in ‘the poor value chain development of the commodity, inefficient commercial policies and strategies and weak knowledge and link of the traders with international markets.’

“Improving trader’s link with international markets and improving the value chain of agriculture commodities can greatly enhance the export-production ratio of these commodities,” he added.

Mr Zafar Hasan, then Secretary, Ministry of Planning Development and Special Initiatives, quoted in the report, said, “To improve enhance Pakistan’s competitiveness in the agriculture sector in national and international markets, the need to evaluate the value chain of agricultural commodities in the regional contexts in which these are produced, marketed, processed and traded was long felt.

“I truly hope that the policies, strategies, and interventions suggested in this report will facilitate the federal and provincial governments to chalk out and implement plans for cluster-based transformation of the agriculture sector.”

Dr Babar Bajwa, Senior Regional Director, CABI, Asia, said, “This study will serve as a basis to make and implement plans for cluster-based agriculture transformation. I hope the study can help the Pakistan Government make its investment decisions along the value chain of various agriculture commodities and adjust policies at the macro level.”

Additional information

Main image: Female farmers and workers take part in a brainstorming session on how to fight crop pests and diseases and improve their productivity through enhanced phytosanitary measures (Credit: CABI).

Full paper reference

Ali Mubarik. (2020). Cluster-Development Based Agriculture Transformation Plan, In Ali Mubarik. (ed.) (2020) Cluster Development Based Agriculture Transformation Plan Vision-2025. Project No. 131(434)PC/AGR/CDBAT-120/2018. Unpublished Report, Planning Commission of Pakistan, Islamabad, Pakistan and Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI), Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

The Agricultural Transformation Plan was developed under Cluster Development based agri. Transformation plan V-2025 (CDBAT) project implemented by CABI and funded by Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives, Govt. of Pakistan.

The full document can be found and read here.

Find out more about CABI’s work in Pakistan from the centre page here.