FAISALABAD-Former speaker National Assembly and Kashmir Committee Chairman Syed Fakhar Imam on Friday said that 70 percent of pests in the country are imported, which warrant a strict quarantine measures on import of agriculture goods and material.

Syed Fakhar Imam stated while chairing a stakeholder meeting on the cotton production and its decline arranged by Department of Entomology, University of Agriculture Faisalabad.

He said that successive governments have ignored the agriculture sector for the last 25 years, which is a matter of serious concern. He said that agriculture sector is a powerful sector that provides employment 43 percent of the total workforce. He said that neighbouring countries are progressing at a fast pace whereas and Pakistan is far-lagging behind in modern agriculture practices coupled with bio technology.

He added that no nation can make progress in the modern era without investing in Human Resource Development.

From 1970s to 90s, he pointed out, the production of cotton had increased three times due to working of four scientists. “We need the scientists of that motivation to meet the demand for ever-increasing population,” Mr Imam stressed, adding that agriculture contributes 18.5 percent to the national GDP. He informed that cotton is cultivated over an area of 2,373 million hectares. Fakhar Imam said that in India, the government is providing support price to many crops, calling for a mechanism of support price for the cotton growers to meet their demands. Fearing further decline in cotton production, he warned that if tangible steps are taken to increase the profitability, the cotton growers would be compelled to shift to other crops that would more worsen the cotton crises. He said that with the value addition, Bangladesh is earning much more than Pakistan although Bangladesh is not growing a single plant of cotton crop. He asserted that Pakistan had bifurcated the education and research in 60s, which was not a good decision.

He lauded the effort of the UAF for the agriculture and education sector.

On the occasion, UAF Vice Chancellor Dr Muhammad Ashraf said that the climate resilient varieties of the cotton are need of the hour to fight the challenge. He said that the cotton production analysis of last 5 years revealed 13.96 Million bales in 2014-15 followed by 9.91 M (2015-16), 10.67 M (2016-17) and 11.94 M (2017-18). While there were 9.86 M bales in 2018-19 and this was the lowest yield during the last five years. There are a number of factors behind the low yield which include reduction in cultivated area, climate change, unavailability of quality seed, CLCV, whitefly and pink bollworm. He said that in Pakistan, pink bollworm is causing 20-30 percent crop losses and resulted in reduction of 4.5 million bales in 2015-16.

Pakistan Engineering Council Chairman Engineer Jawed Salim Qureshi said that Pakistan is among those countries which are worst hit by climate changes. He said Pakistan would have to opt for modern trends to compete with the rest of the world with a special attention on science and technology.

Prof Dr Jalal Arif in this welcome said that on the direction of the Vice Chancellor, the meeting is arranged to come up with viable solution for better cotton production Talking about short term strategies stressed upon the need to availability of Irrigation Water During Sowing Time, training of cotton growers/dealers about production technology of cotton varieties, spraying techniques and installation/usefulness of PB ropes, implementation of off-season management of Pink bollworm and whitefly, local manufacturing and availability of pheromone and PB ropes. DG Ayub Agricultural Research Dr Abid Mehmood, DG Extension Dr Anjum Ali Bhuttar, and others notable also spoke.