Pakistan will soon start exporting dairy products to China.

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Pakistan will soon start exporting dairy products to China through a state-of-the-art farm developed in Sheikhupura to meet China’s export requirements. Masaud Anwar, Secretary Livestock, Government of Punjab, revealed this at ‘Pakistan Agricultural Coalition’s Agri-Connections 2024’ at the Expo Center here on Wednesday. “A team of China Customs has recently visited our FAM Farm in Sheikhupura and unofficially approved Pakistan for exports of dairy products to China,” said Anwar.

On the occasion, the Secretary of Agriculture, Government of Punjab, Iftikhar Sahoo, said that the private sector is the future of agriculture, addressing an audience full of corporate and financial sector players. “The new government has a vision for transforming our agriculture sector. So, an investment of Rs 100 billion has been planned in the agriculture sector for the next two years,” said Sahoo.

He added that Rs 80 billion will be spent on modernising watercourses in the entire province in the next three years. The government is also in talks with institutes for modern equipment, partnerships with academia for research, funding research by the private sector, and paid internships for graduates from agricultural universities.

Sahoo said that despite being an agricultural country, Pakistan imports $5 billion worth of food-related items every year while facing serious challenges like crop productivity stagnation, decreased crop area, and loss of agri land to housing projects. He added that food shortage is a serious issue. With the same agricultural productivity and increasing population, the country will face a wheat shortage of 6 million tons by 2033 while facing huge crop losses worth $1.5 every year due to outdated farming practices and low-quality farming.

Abrar Hasan, Global CEO of National Foods Limited (NFL), talked about NFL’s ‘Seed to Table’ project, which was launched in August 2023 in partnership with progressive farm-managing companies with a vision to reduce the country’s dependency on imported raw materials, empower local farmers and fortify Pakistan’s agri value chain. “Even in its early stage, the ‘Seed to Table’ project has exceeded our expectations, and we are incredibly proud of the results. The project has already saved USD 2mn and has a realised localisation potential of around USD 10mn,” said Abrar Hasan. “By taking control of the entire supply chain, we’ve ensured a consistent supply of high-quality fresh tomatoes directly to NFL’s production facilities,” he added.

Earlier, Arif Nadeem, CEO of Pakistan Agricultural Coalition, said in his welcome address that their task is to make Pakistan’s agricultural sector globally competitive, and issues raised in Agri Connections 2024 are to be addressed by government policymakers. “We should trigger things for the growth of our agriculture sector, and I believe that a better environment for investments emerges through this kind of conference,” said Arif.

He informed us that agricultural experts from China, Hungary, the United Kingdom, and other countries participated in this conference to witness our knowledge-building platform. “As many as 35 small start-ups presented their products at this conference and participated in our competition for start-ups in the agriculture sector,” said Arif.

On the first day of the conference, a panel discussion on how agriculture can salvage Pakistan’s economy was also held, during which distinguished speakers from different sectors discussed the country’s opportunities and options in the agri sector. Afaq Tiwana, CEO of Farmers Associates Pakistan, said the corporate sector wants to invest in the agri industry, which gives us hope. “But some old policies, like support in terms of subsidies for input, still exist, which hamper growth in this sector. They are not relevant today and are not helping the sector grow,” said Afaq.

He added that the need is to support viable farmers, not small farmers. Regulating output prices drives down farmers’ profitability, so the government shouldn’t do this,” reasoned Afaq.

Dr Iqbal Ahmad, Vice Chancellor of the University of Agriculture, said that the private sector should invest in high-efficiency irrigation, and there are many other opportunities.

Naz Khan, Principal Country Officer at International Finance Corporation, said that by 2050, Pakistan’s population will be 400 million, so the agriculture sector is very important for the country.

“Local governments spend More than $2 billion on supporting the agriculture sector through grants and subsidies, which can be used for development,” said Naz. She added that the private sector needs to be engaged to uplift the industry and make it export-oriented through mechanisation.

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