FAISALABAD - Pakistan Strategic Support Programme Chief Dr John W Mellor linked poverty alleviation to the promotion of agricultural sector in Pakistan.

"It needs to be strengthened by increasing investment on the sector and adopting a comprehensive policy that will increase employment opportunities," he said addressing a gathering of students and teachers at a seminar titled "Agro growth and Economic Transformation" at University of Agriculture Faisalabad.

He said that 85 million of the population of Pakistan is linked with the agricultural sector as labour force. He pointed out that the agriculture has direct relations to employment as it increases job opportunities. He said that the agri extension and research are the areas which should be developed to cater the growing food need of the country and the region.

He added the federal government was spending 1.7 percent of budget on the sector while the Punjab was spending 7.5 percent of its budget on the sector. That will help individuals to analyse significant change, he said. He added that in 1960s, the fast growth in the sector was witnessed in the country but in 70' and in the early years of 21 century, it showed a declining trend. He also stressed the need for making reforms at micro level that will help make development in the area.

He added that the slow agricultural development was a reason of increase in unemployment. Keeping in view, it is need of the hour to step up efforts for the development in the sector, he said. He also stressed the need for ensuring the agriculture education across the country.

UAF Vice Chancellor Dr Iqrar Ahmad said Agricultural Policy Centre was being set up at the campus to flourish the sector. The centre will give suggestions about the agricultural policy to the government. He said that the research portfolio was only Rs400 million a half decade ago and now hit has reached the level of around Rs2,000 million. He said that because of hardworking on the part of the university, the UAF has come at 158th number in the world.

Dr Stev said that water, agricultural development, poverty alleviation needed to be focused in Pakistan. He also said that they will work with UAF on the agricultural issues of the country.