ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on Wednesday said that the government was pursuing agricultural policies to ensure food security in the country and improve the living standard of small farmers.Addressing a ceremony of Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited, the prime minister said that food security was a big global challenge which had surfaced after depletion of energy resources, increase in population and water shortage. The premier said that in the backdrop of national and international challenges, the government wanted a strengthened agri-sector which would not only ensure food security but also contribute to the country’s economy.  PM Raja said that he came from agricultural background and had realisation of the importance of farmers who give life to barren lands by toiling hard. “The food served at lavish hotels and restaurants carries is the result of a farmer’s labour.”He said prosperity of farmers by solving their problems was his government’s priority, adding that agriculture was an effective way to control poverty. He mentioned several incentives given by the government to farmers including the Insurance Scheme that covered five major crops; wheat, cotton, rice, sugarcane and corn, besides increasing the Produce Index Unit from Rs 1,200 to Rs 2,000. He said that in 2011-12, farmers were given loans worth Rs198 billion which was 17 percent more as compared to the last year.He said the support price of wheat on 40 kilograms had also been raised from Rs 625 to Rs 1,200 and highlighted that due to prudent agricultural policies, Pakistan had now become a wheat-exporting country. The premier lauded ZTBL for providing assistance to farmers, introducing hybrid seeds and giving training to farmers to increase production. He pledged to further reduce the mark-up ratio for farmers on their loans and announced one-month bonus to all the employees of ZTBL. Commenting on the politics of allegation, PM Raja said that politicians should shun the practice of levelling baseless allegations as it was distorting country’s image globally.“The practice of putting allegations without proofs has defaced the country’s image among foreigners,” he said.The premier criticised those politicians who called others dishonest without proof in TV talk shows.  He said that politicians and their political statements run parallel but these should not be used to create hatred.He said work on several mega projects including Diamer-Bhasha Dam, Neelum-Jhelum Plant and Thar Coal Project involved multibillion dollar investment so the confidence of foreign investors must not be hampered by irresponsible statements.The PM expressed satisfaction that the democratic government was nearing completion of its five-year tenure. He said fair and transparent elections were the right of the people of Pakistan.  On his turn, ZTBL President Ehsanul Haq Khan said the bank was pursuing projects for rural population that aimed at improving their living standards. He mentioned four schemes of loans for farmers to help them increase their income. He said that plans of olive and grapes cultivation in Potohar region, model villages, projects through Agriculture Support Fund and USAID, dairy farming and online banking were also under consideration to facilitate the farmers.