Govt working on strategy to ensure food security

* Dar says national agriculture policy must be formulated at the earliest to ensure optimum use of natural resources

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Food Security have decided to jointly chalk out a strategy to ensure food security in the country by equipping the agriculture sector with latest technologies and offering tax incentives on agricultural imports in the federal budget for 2014-15.
It has been decided that a mechanism will be devised to control prices in coordination with provinces and next meeting in this regard will be held at the Finance Ministry next week.
It is worth noting that despite lapse of 10 months of the PML-N government, the Ministry of Finance has failed to implement the proposals prepared in consultation with previous government of the PPP for revival of magistracy system in all four provinces to check the price hike.
Finance Minister on Saturday told a meeting held to review prices of agricultural products in country and the strategy to ensure agriculture sector growth that the agriculture continues to play a central role in Pakistan’s economy with pivotal impact on the socio-economic set-up. It accounts for over 21% of the GDP, while employing 45% of the country’s labor force, he added.
The finance minister said a holistic approach is needed for development of agricultural sector in Pakistan. He said that agricultural policy should focus on small farmers to combat poverty in the rural areas. He said that tackling poverty is not possible without fundamental rethinking and innovation. He emphasised that a national agriculture policy must be formulated at the earliest to ensure optimum use of natural resources to make the country self-sufficient in food.
In order to meet the challenges of food insecurity and malnutrition, it is imperative that the latest technological advancements and innovative techniques should be employed to improve the productivity of land, the minister said, and added that in order to control prices of agricultural products middleman’s role should be eliminated.
Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Sikandar Hayat Bosan said Pakistan has great potential in agriculture sector. Although agriculture is a provincial responsibility, the import and export of agricultural inputs and products, price setting, standardisation and quarantine issues, national research and inter-provincial issues such as rehabilitation, come under the ambit of federal government.
He said that the food ministry is sharing experiences and innovative ideas with farmers and agricultural researchers as well as private sector which will help boost up the growth of agriculture sector. 
He said the ministry is working on a number of projects to make modern agricultural technology accessible to farmers and growers so that they could increase the yield.
On the upward trend in the prices of potato, the finance minister was informed that there is almost 1.1 million tons of surplus potato in the country and that the role of provincial governments is important to discourage hoarding and manipulation. 

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