ISLAMABAD (our reporter):- Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhar Imam has said that dissemination of new techniques and technologies at the grassroots level is imperative to improve crop and livestock yields.

Addressing a meeting of agricultural scientists at Ayub Agricultural Research Institute (AARI) here today, he said Pakistan is a predominantly an agrarian economy. Of the 196 million acres of total land, 50 million acres is cultivated land of which 37% is used for wheat production. We grow five major crops including wheat, cotton, rice, maize, and sugarcane but we do not add much value in these commodities.

Therefore, our scientists must focus on technologies that will help add value and enhance income of farmers and play a major role in lowering rural poverty. He said that last year we produced 7 million bales of cotton but this year we are expecting 9 million bales. Due to additional 2 million bales, we will add Rs.200 billion additional income in our agriculture sector. He said that textile had a loin share in our overall exports. We are planning to enhance our exports up to $30 billion out of which the textile share will be 60%.

He explained that government was incentivizing cotton growers and for the first time in the last 8 years, intervention price of cotton was fixed at Rs.5,000 per 40 kg which helped stabilize the seed-cotton markets and increase farmer profits.

He said that government was also trying to enhance production of soyabean for which development of new technology was imperative. He explained that outcome of agricultural research must be passed to farmers as it would not only enhance per acre yield but also reduce the production cost. He urged scientists to develop varieties suitable for different ecological zones in order to optimize crop yield.

Earlier, Chief Scientist AARI Dr. Akthar said that Pakistan was fourth largest country in sugarcane production, 5th in cotton, 6th in mango and guava, 7th in wheat and 10th largest country in rice production. He said that AARI had so far introduced 659 varieties of different crops for cultivation including 90 verities of wheat, 58 of cotton, 32 of pulses and 28 varieties of sugarcane.

He said that more than 15 ISO certified laboratories of AARI were also extending services to check the quality and efficacy of pesticide and fertilizer. Out of total samples, 3% each of pesticides and fertilizers were found adulterated.

The meeting was also attended by Chief Executive Officer Punjab Agriculture Research Board, Deputy Director Research Information Dr. Asif Ali and others scientists.

Later, the federal minister also visited National Institute for Biotechnology & Genetic Engineering and Nuclear Institute for Agriculture & Biology where he was briefed about the significant contributions of these institutions in cotton, livestock, and saline agriculture.

The Minister lauded contributions to agricultural development by all three instructions and promised to provide further support for their reaseach efforts.

The Minister also met with a group of scientists who were protesting against the proposed institutional reforms geared to privatize agricultural research. The Minster explained that this matter pertained to the provincial government. He assured them to convey their grievances to the concerned authorities. .

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