Senior army officer to head Pakistan’s new centre for agricultural growth

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan has set up a Land Information and Management System, Center of Excellence (LIMS-CoE) with a $500 million Saudi assistance to modernise its agriculture sector.–Photo courtesy Kissan Pakistan (Twitter)

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan has set up a Land Information and Management System, Center of Excellence (LIMS-CoE) with a $500 million Saudi assistance to modernise its agriculture sector.

According to a senior Pakistani official, the new land management system aims to enhance agro-farming by using more than 9 million hectares of uncultivated state land. The official said that Saudi Arabia has provided an initial $500 million investment for the facility.

The centre, set up under the Director General Strategic Projects of the Pakistan Army, will work in collaboration with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and China on various projects to enhance Pakistan’s agricultural exports.

Maj Gen Shahid Nazeer, who heads the LIMS-CoE, told reporters at a briefing, “As far as the high efficiency irrigation system is concerned, Saudi Arabia has already given us [Pakistan] $500 million.”

He said, “Aimed at enhancing modern agro-farming utilizing over 9 million hectares of uncultivated waste state land, LIMS-CoE has been established under the Director General Strategic Projects of Pakistan Army.”

He said the centre is aimed at revolutionising the agricultural development through real-time information about land, crops, weather, water resources and pest-handling under one roof.

“In the next 3-4 days, a very high-powered Saudi delegation is coming to Pakistan to explore this kind of investment in four major sectors including agriculture, mines and minerals, information technology (IT) and defence production,” the official said.

This would be done under the umbrella of the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), which was recently set up to revive the ailing Pakistani economy, he elaborated.

Nazeer said the LIMS-CoE is aimed at boosting food security and optimising agricultural production in Pakistan through innovative technologies and precise, sustainable agricultural practices based on agro-ecological potential of the land. It will ensure well-being of the rural communities and preserve the environment, he added.

He explained, “The main objectives of the centre included consolidation and reclamation of uncultivated waste land, optimal decision; what and where to grow, development of a master plan for modern farming, implementation of state-of-the-art agriculture management practices, practicing agro-intelligence for digital and precision agriculture, better utilization of technology to enhance yield and effective decision support system.”

The official said the centre recently initiated modern agri-farming projects in Punjab. He said that efforts were being made to use certified hybrid seeds with concurrent development involving joint ventures with multi-national companies, which could pay rich dividends. In agriculture and gardening, a hybrid seed is produced by deliberately cross-pollinating plants that are genetically diverse.

He said, “Hybrid seed gives 30-50 percent more yield. The world is using 80 percent of hybrid seed, while Pakistan currently uses only 8 percent of hybrid seed.”

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Pakistan, which is facing an acute economic crisis, is an agriculture-based economy contributing 23 percent to the GDP and employing 37.4 percent of the labour force. Pakistan’s agriculture productivity remains below par, with a decreasing cultivation area, a population-production gap and $10 billion agricultural imports.

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The World Food Program (WFP) says that 36.9 percent of Pakistanis are food insecure and 18.3 percent are experiencing a severe food crisis. Pakistan faces a shortfall of 4 million metric tons in wheat production against a total demand of 30.8 million metric tons. Pakistan’s cotton production has fallen by 40 percent to around 5 million bales in the last decade.

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