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The agro-revolution via Chinese expertise | The Express Tribune

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KARACHI:

China’s agricultural modernization has been remarkable, ensuring food security for more than a billion people. Pakistan can leverage Chinese expertise to revitalize its agricultural sector, the cornerstone of its economy.

Under the Pakistan-China collaboration, both countries benefit from diverse environmental conditions conducive to cultivation and animal husbandry.

“Effective management of post-harvest losses and improving the value of fruits and vegetables through research and development (R&D) collaboration with China is crucial. With Pakistan producing 20 types of fruits and 40 types of vegetables, high post-harvest losses of around 40% in the supply chain result in significant wastage, limiting consumer access,” said Professor Zahir Ahmed Zahir , from the Institute of Agriculture University, Faisalabad. Soil and Environmental Sciences, also President of Soil Science Society of Pakistan (SSSP).

“Currently, Pakistan’s fruit and vegetable exports stand at $600 million, a figure that could potentially reach $2 billion if post-harvest practices are improved, losses are reduced and the products and industries are promoted. value-added,” he said.

China’s staple food is rice, while Pakistan relies heavily on wheat. China has made increasing rice yield a priority. In 1964, Chinese scientist Yuan Longping, recognized as the father of hybrid rice, dedicated himself to this task and in 1972 succeeded in developing a high-yielding hybrid rice variety, increasing the yield by 20%.

Currently, China has hundreds of hybrid varieties, effectively meeting local demand and strengthening food security.

“We also exploit Chinese hybrid varieties. In Sindh, we cultivate rice on two million acres, half of which is under hybrid varieties imported from China,” said Dr Nihaluddin Marri, technical director of agricultural research in Sindh.

“To ensure food security, we need to focus on three key areas: improving high-yielding hybrid wheat, optimizing storage systems, and managing population growth to stop the conversion of agricultural land into housing projects. With a growing population and diminishing agricultural land due to the expansion of housing societies across the country, these measures are imperative,” he added.

Professor Zhou Chang Ming from Xinjiang Agricultural University in China highlighted the current state of China’s agricultural production. As the world’s largest producer of wheat, rice and corn, China also grows significant quantities of soybeans, cotton, sugar and other agricultural products. This abundance not only meets domestic needs, but also fuels international markets.

The agricultural landscape in China is evolving from a focus solely on food cultivation to a diversified portfolio including vegetables, fruits, livestock and poultry. This diversification builds resilience within the agricultural sector, mitigating the risks associated with reliance on a single industry.

Read: Alvi calls for agricultural technology to combat climate change

“China’s 14th Five-Year Plan for Agricultural and Rural Modernization aims to advance rural agricultural practices, thereby boosting income growth for rural residents. Through significant investments in agricultural research, development, innovation and mechanization, China has significantly improved the quality and profitability of its agricultural sector. Serving as a model for other developing countries, China’s agricultural modernization efforts offer invaluable lessons. Syngenta’s China Maps centers notably exemplify innovation in the sector, providing comprehensive solutions to agricultural needs and leading to unprecedented yield improvements,” highlighted Zeeshan Baig, Managing Director of Syngenta Pakistan, an esteemed figure in agricultural technology .

Pakistan stands to gain from China’s agricultural modernization on several fronts. First, by strengthening cooperation with China through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Pakistan can access opportunities for infrastructure development, trade facilitation and technology transfer within the agricultural sector.

Second, learning from China’s successful agricultural policies, planning and management practices can help Pakistan overhaul its agricultural productivity, efficiency and sustainability.

Third, by tapping into China’s vast market potential and demand for agricultural products, especially high-value and niche products like fruits and vegetables, Pakistan can increase its export earnings.

Finally, Pakistan can leverage China’s support and assistance to address various challenges facing its agricultural sector, including climate change, water scarcity, pests and diseases, and problems of Food Safety.

The use of advanced machinery and components can produce high quality seeds and breeds developed through biotechnology, genetic engineering and hybridization. These advances result in crops with higher yields, increased resistance and improved adaptability. The adoption of digital agriculture, including satellite imagery and Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, offers valuable data to improve decision-making, pest control, and soil and crop management. the water.

Additionally, prioritizing research and development in biotechnology can lead to the creation of high-yielding and climate-resilient crop varieties suited to Pakistan’s unique agroclimatic conditions. Smart and precision agriculture uses big data, artificial intelligence (AI), IoT, drones, sensors and satellites to monitor and optimize agricultural production and management.

Meanwhile, modern agricultural machinery and equipment, such as tractors, harvesters, planters, sprayers, irrigation systems and storage facilities, are improving the mechanization and automation of agricultural operations.

“China has focused on value-added, simultaneously reducing losses to just 2%, by improving the production, packaging and marketing of value-added products domestically and internationally. It is imperative for us to adopt and adapt to Chinese technologies in this regard. We are currently experiencing substantial losses, particularly in the horticultural sector, with around 40% of food and vegetables wasted. Additionally, China’s proactive promotion of sustainable agricultural practices, including organic farming and conservation efforts, underscores its commitment to addressing environmental concerns and ensuring long-term sustainability. China’s agricultural modernization journey illustrates its determination to transform its agrarian economy into a technologically advanced and sustainable sector capable of meeting future challenges,” remarked Professor Muhammad Ismail Kumbhar, renowned researcher and sustainability expert of the Agricultural Education Extension Department of Sindh Agricultural University (SAU).

Key areas to address to reduce post-harvest losses and improve value addition of fruits and vegetables include:

1. Capacity building in post-harvest technology and value addition through collaboration with Chinese experts.

2. Introduction and technology transfer of modern tools, equipment and machines for harvesting, post-harvest management and packaging of fruits and vegetables.

3. Development of value-added products and processing technologies for fruits and vegetables.

4. Exchange of promising cultivars of fruits and vegetables to improve yield and quality.

5. Automation of nursery technology for horticultural crops through collaboration with Chinese R&D counterparts.

6. Implementation of quality seed production and processing technology, particularly for hybrid seeds.

7. Creation of food processing zones near CPEC to add value to value-added products, thereby boosting economic growth through agricultural export-oriented strategies.

China’s expertise can play a crucial role in enhancing the skills of Pakistani experts and attracting investors to these industrial zones, thereby fostering collaboration and innovation in the agricultural sector.

The writer is staff correspondent

Published in The Express Tribune, March 4th2024.

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