Agricultural Sector in Pakistan
Pakistan has a rich and vast natural resource base, covering various ecological and climatic zones; hence the country has great potential for producing all types of food commodities. Agriculture has an important direct and indirect role in generating economic growth. The importance of agriculture to the economy is seen in three ways: first, it provides food to consumers and fibres for domestic industry; second, it is a source of scarce foreign exchange earnings; and third, it provides a market for industrial goods.
Land use, farming systems and institutions
The total geographical area of Pakistan is 79.6 million hectares. About 27 percent of the area is currently under cultivation. Of this area, 80 percent is irrigated. In this regard, Pakistan has one of the highest proportions of irrigated cropped area in the world. The cultivable waste lands offering good possibilities of crop production amount to 8.9 million hectares. Growth in cropped area is very impressive: from 11.6 million hectares in 1947 to 22.6 million hectares in 1997.
Most of Pakistan is classified as arid to semi-arid because rainfall is not sufficient to grow agricultural crops, forest and fruit plants and pastures. About 68 percent of the geographical area has annual rainfall of 250 mm, whereas about 24 percent has annual rainfall of 251 to 500 mm. Only 8 percent of the geographical area has annual rainfall exceeding 500 mm. Thus supplemental water is required for profitable agricultural production, either from irrigation or through water harvesting.
Agriculture is largely dependent on artificial means of irrigation. Of the total cultivated area, about 82 percent or around 17.58 million hectares is irrigated, while crop production in the remaining 3.96 million hectares depends mainly upon rainfall. The Irrigation Canal Command Area (CCA) has been grouped into classes on the basis of the nature and severity of its limitations water logging, salinity, sodicity and texture. At present about one-fifth of the cultivated land in CCA is affected by water logging and salinity to varying degrees. An additional area of 2.8 million hectares suffers from sodicity. Notwithstanding huge investments, the water table was 0 to 1.5 m under 2.2 million hectares of irrigated land, 1.5 to 3 m under 6 million hectares and 0to 3 m under 8 million hectares. Thus Pakistan needs to overhaul its entire drainage and reclamation strategy reduce its cost and make it efficient.