As the agricultural sector of Pakistan is the backbone of its national economy, the country’s officials and experts believe that the enhanced cooperation under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) can greatly help Pakistan modernize the sector, ensure food security and improve local people’s livelihood.

According to the figures from the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, the agricultural sector contributes about 24 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), accounts for half of employed labor force and is the largest source of foreign exchange earnings.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran khan said recently that the government has been seeking support from China to boost the agricultural sector of the country to ensure sustainable development and prosperity.

Pakistan is heading towards the modern agriculture, and the country will be following China’s footsteps to uplift agro-based industries, Khan said, adding that in order to further elevate the sector, the government has made it one of the key cooperation areas under the CPEC.

In January 2021, China and Pakistan launched an online platform to collect and display information and achievements of agricultural and industrial cooperation between the two countries, aiming at enhancing bilateral cooperation under the CPEC in the two sectors.

In a conversation with Xinhua, Pakistani Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhar Imam said that enhanced cooperation with China in the field of agriculture can bring a green revolution in Pakistan and give stimulus to the economic and social development.

“Pakistan and China have a long history of agricultural cooperation, and the country (Pakistan) has excelled in many areas due to enhanced bilateral agricultural research and development activities,” Imam said, adding that China has not only established its agricultural sector on modern lines, but also extended its help to countries including Pakistan under the Belt and Road Initiative of which the CPEC is a flagship project, to boost agricultural development.

China has been assisting Pakistan to improve the production of cash crops by imparting valuable knowledge and technology transfer.

The country has also provided Pakistan with unprecedented support during the worst locust attack last year by sending experts, equipment and chemicals, saving the country from the threat of massive food shortage, he said.

Highlighting various possible areas of agricultural cooperation between the two countries, the minister said that there is great potential in the fields of seed industry, agricultural material and machinery, agricultural product processing, agricultural investment and supporting service systems such as warehousing, cold chain and logistics to promote the transformation and upgrading of the agricultural sector.

The country can further consolidate its strength in agriculture by learning from China’s past success stories and upcoming development designs in agricultural science and technology, and mechanization, Chairman of the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) Muhammad Azeem Khan told Xinhua.

“The cooperation will not only improve the crop production and ensure food security, but it will also be a fate changer for the people of Pakistan,” he said.

Talking about the challenges faced by the sector, the PARC chairman said that Pakistan’s agricultural productivity has recently been declining due to a number of factors including climate change, drought, diseases and pests, which has largely impeded economic growth and caused food security concerns.

Crops like cotton and wheat have been direly affected recently due to severe climate change and unexpected rains in the country, he said, adding that cotton products contribute to a large part of the country’s exports, so Pakistan is in need of cooperating with China to produce resistant varieties to better cope with adverse impacts of climate change.

Muhammad Ansar, chairman of agronomy department at Pir Mehr Ali Shah Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi, said that Pakistan must adopt a global and international perspective in their business practices in order to make its agricultural products more competitive in international markets to earn valuable foreign exchange.

The use of old cultivation and production methods, negligence on international market quality certification systems and quality control standards, and least understanding of consumers’ needs have been the reasons behind the less demand of Pakistan’s products in the international market, Ansar told Xinhua.

Pakistan can seek Chinese help in improving production technology and product quality, and expanding sales market to increase exports to various countries including China, one of the major destinations for the country’s exports, he said.

“With the formation of prudent trade policies and high value-added products in the agricultural sector, the country can develop a huge consumer market in China,” Ansar said.