Digital solutions for agriculture

ISLAMABAD: President of the Pakistan Businesses Forum (PBF) on Monday said that with the use of digital technology the volume of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the agricultural sector could be increased to 6 percent which could bring a revolution in the agricultural sector.

PBF president urged ZTBL and other private banks to extend fresh loans to small farmers in all four provinces equally. Currently, the bank’s disbursement is tilted towards Punjab only which is unjustified, said a press release issued here.

Meanwhile, president PBF Sahibzada Mian Usman Zulfiqar said that Pakistan’s population was estimated to almost double in the next 30 years. “That means we will have another 200 million mouths to feed by 2050,” he said.

He said that on top of rapid population growth, the changing climate or global warming was bringing new challenges to the nation’s food security, a total of 21m people in the country were already estimated to be acutely food insecure at present.

In this regard Usman Zulfiqar suggested that small farmers could be facilitated through timely credit and that could be only possible if banks worked on new technologies instead of sticking only to old four or five products.

Currently, agriculture is dying due to ineffective policies which has resulted in migration to urban areas from rural Sindh and Balochistan, he said adding: “The banks must encourage value addition activities in fruits and vegetables being grown in different areas of all provinces in order to export such products including extend financing facilities for small oil extracting units, promotion of oil substitution crops i.e. Canola, Soybean, Sunflower, Mustard and Olive.”

He also said that the banks could provide financing for silos (construction of crop warehousing facilities), milk chilling units to promote standardized dairy supply chains, horticulture and establishment of green houses/tunnel farming, silage baler for promoting silage making. He suggested that leveraging drone technology alone would enable farmers to increase their productivity through improved pest management.

PBF president said that integrating the agricultural sector in the country’s circular economic model could be the solution to Pakistan’s economic, social and environmental woes.

It could provide a solution to the current food shortage and inflation problems and play an instrumental role in achieving a number of related United Nations-Sustainable Development Goals (UN-SDGs) 2030.

“Agriculture is inherently the backbone of Pakistan’s economic system and without the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices, the country’s other economic sectors cannot achieve sustainable development,” he said adding that the digital revolution in any sector required investment which is where the banking industry comes into play.

He said that banks especially ZTBL could finance various digital farming or sustainable agricultural solutions under the umbrella of Green Banking through providing green financing facilities.

Usman Zulfiqar said the State Bank of Pakistan had issued ‘Guidelines for Efficient Agricultural Water Management Financing’ to promote water conservation across the agriculture sector through the banking industry. Sustainable/Green financing schemes, with low-interest rates, could be launched for various eco-friendly agricultural techniques and equipments.

President PBF said banks must educate and facilitate all the value chain partners including farmers and other supply chain partners about the various environmentally and economically sustainable agricultural products and processes available, which will increase per acre yield and minimize adverse environmental impacts.

He said the implementation of Green Supply Chain practices was vital for the development of sustainable agricultural practices.

He further said that ZTBL’s credit policy was stagnant and confined to one million only which needed to be reviewed by the board of directors of the bank on priority basis.

“If we adopt these certain measures in agriculture sector then there is no point that agriculture sector contribution to GDP does not touch 6% which will be a great contribution for the economy,” he said adding, “we must understand that due to climate change and insufficient investment in agriculture, Pakistan’s food security situation has become fragile”. | YouTube Channel

M M Alam

M. M. Alam is a Pakistan-based working journalist since 1981. Karachi University faculty gold medalist Alam began his career four decades ago by writing for Dawn, Pakistan’s highest circulating English daily. He has worked for region’s leading publications, global aviation periodicals including Rotors (of USA) and vetted New York Times as permanent employee of daily Express Tribune. Alam regularly covers international aviation and defense-related events including Salon Du Bourget (France), Farnborough (United Kingdom), Dubai (UAE). Alam has reported thousands of events and interviewed hundreds of people in Pakistan, UAE, EU, UK and USA. Being Francophone Alam also coordinates with a number of French publications.