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Role of CPEC in Agriculture | Benefits and Challenges | Projects and Steps

CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) has assigned its priority to the agriculture sector of Pakistan because CPEC is not only about roads and railroads; rather CPEC aims to improve agriculture infrastructure by providing farmers with the latest technologies. CPEC will boost foreign investment in the local agricultural sector which ultimately increases employment opportunities for educated youth. CPEC has assigned its priority to the agriculture sector. It is not only about roads and railroads, but CPEC also aims to assist Pakistan’s agricultural industry by providing farmers with modern technology. By bringing foreign direct investment in this sector, it will increase employment opportunities for educated youth. In addition, CPEC will improve irrigation systems which will play a pivotal role in increasing the production of food cargos.

How will it benefit Pakistan?

CPEC promises to bring a turnaround in the fortune of the Pakistani agriculture sector as well as provide new avenues for further progress of this vital industry that contributes 21% to the nation’s GDP, provides jobs to 45% of the working force and is responsible for 40% share of total exports from Pakistan. It will help farmers access wider markets through road, rail and sea links where farmers will be able to export their products at competitive prices. Furthermore, agricultural land development and expansion under CPEC which includes increasing farm size for increasing productivity with the latest machinery and techniques would play a vital role in the uplift of Pakistan’s economy which would boost the overall GDP of Pakistan.  

How will CPEC Affect Farmers?

According to experts, the overall growth of the agriculture sector by 5% will be a positive impact on Pakistani farmers as more demand is expected from China which would help to improve the productivity of crops and livestock according to the comparative advantages Pakistan possesses. Similarly, it will also generate employment opportunities in agricultural value chains in different agro-processing industries by providing linkages with the modern logistics system established under this mega project.

It has been agreed upon to establish an agricultural technology demonstration center at Gwadar which shall facilitate in transferring cultivated crop production technologies like hydroponics, greenhouse cultivation, etc where Chinese entrepreneurs can invest in setting up greenhouse vegetable farms that produce high yield vegetables through sustainable techniques to meet local demand; these ventures would certainly boost exports when linkages are established via sea route under CPEC after its completion, which is expected by 2030.

It is expected that under CPEC, the irrigation channels and facilities would be upgraded to irrigate 100,000 acres of fertile land in Sindh where water shortage is a major problem for Pakistani farmers as the majority of the population resides in this region. This project will have two objectives to address namely food security and hydel power generation since it will support the construction of large dams being constructed at Diamer-Bhasha Dam and Mohmand Dam thereby providing cheap electricity to various industries that are critically dependent on low-cost energy to compete globally against their foreign competitors.

A number of agricultural projects have been planned throughout Pakistan under CPEC including dairy farming, seed processing plants, fruit processing etc that would lead to enrichment in the overall production of agricultural goods, even it will improve competitiveness among Pakistani products in regional and global markets.

Agriculture Projects under CPEC

  1. Diamer Basha Dam Project: Diamer-Bhasha Dam project has been included in CPEC which will be built on the Indus River, one of Pakistan’s major river systems, in the Gilgit Baltistan area near the Chinese border.
  2. Gomal Zam Dam Project: The Gomal Zam Dam is a proposed multi-purpose rock and earth-filled embankment dam on the Gomal River in Dera Ismail Khan District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan.
  3. The irrigation system works on gravity where water flows down to lower areas through canals or even pipelines after it is lifted at an initial height through water towers.
  4. Soil Improvement Project: The project aims at improving soil fertility and crop yields through the application of organic manure/seed treatment fertilizer in poor soils. It will also be enhanced to reduce greenhouse emissions from soils by adopting better land management practices such as minimum plowing, no-till farming, etc. Thus, the need arises for a reduction in energy consumption and a sustainable alternative would help farmers to maintain fertile soils with minimum application of chemical fertilizers.
  5. Cotton Production Project: Under CPEC, China has agreed to provide technology transfer which includes production techniques as well as post-harvest technologies so that Pakistani producers can benefit from cotton produced under this initiative. In 2016, Pakistan achieved the 5 million bales target under the PM’s Extended Credit Facility Scheme and it is expected that the target of 10 million bales under this program would be achieved.
  6. Sugar Cane: One of the main crops to benefit from CPEC is sugar cane as China has long been a net exporter of refined sugar; Pakistan’s demand for sugar has increased rapidly since 2011–12 as its population consumes more than 40 kg per capita annually, which was about half of China’s consumption in 2015-16.
  7. Sugar cane project in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
  8. Cotton ginning factories in Gwadar, Balochistan and Dera Ismail Khan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
  9. Engro Thar coal power project in Thar, Sindh.
  10. Greenhouses Projects in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Benefits of CPEC to Agriculture Sector

  1. Farmers will be provided with the latest technology in order to increase their yield.
  2. CPEC will help to resolve the growing water crisis by establishing dams and irrigation systems, which will provide water to fields even during droughts.
  3. It aims at increasing harvesting seasons where farmers can produce fresh crops throughout the year rather than only a few months when it is possible.
  4. The country’s trade volume will grow due to improved roads and highways for the transportation of goods from one place to another along with much-needed electricity in remote areas, so overall effects on GDP are expected that may cut poverty.
  5. CPEC provides opportunities for educated youth who want to work in the agriculture sector as foreign investment is being made in the agricultural sector.
  6. It will be a major source of employment opportunities where educated youth can contribute to the progress of Pakistan.
  7. CPEC also aims at uplifting Women’s Empowerment by providing them with the latest technologies so they can compete equally with men especially for jobs in fields and transparent business ownership as women are quite an asset as compared to men as they work efficiently and honestly.
  8. CPEC is expected to double exports from Pakistan where it will provide international markets for local products which will help farmers earn more foreign exchange from their native products.
  9. It provides easy access to fertilizers, seeds, pesticides along with better transportation which reduces farmers’ expenditure on inputs because now they can afford machinery for farming with ease.
  10. CPEC is also projected to promote digital farming, which helps farmers to keep track of their fields and reduce the usage of chemicals due to increased yield.

Challenges in CPEC for Agriculture Sector

CPEC is a double-edged sword where it will provide Pakistan with many opportunities however; challenges come with every opportunity which needs to be dealt with after sorting out benefits and disadvantages.

  1. Highway construction may destroy some agricultural farms where it has to be compensated by local farmers.
  2. CPEC is not the only solution that will increase yield, farmers themselves need to adopt new technologies in order to enhance their productivity.
  3. Mineral deposits like Gold, Copper and Coal are located under CPEC’s path which will harm agricultural lands as well as underground water due to pollution.
  4. Pakistan is dependent on food imports; therefore, this initiative of CPEC alone won’t be able to provide Pakistan with self-sufficiency in grain production.
  5. Clash of different cultures among workers from different regions working on one project causes unrest among them which harms the progress of the project.

Steps Needed for Agriculture under CPEC

  1. Pak Government needs to implement policies that promote local industries and businesses along with strict rules.
  2. The Pakistan Government needs to formulate policies that will help CPEC’s success such as providing opportunities for locals, creating job markets and encouraging foreign investments by protecting their rights.
  3. Transparency in Contracts is required between local and foreign companies which should be monitored by the Supreme Court of Pakistan so there is no corruption while CPEC projects are executed.
  4. Government needs to carry out more studies on the effects of climate change and global warming on agriculture yield where it can take preventive measures accordingly or else even this initiative from China won’t be enough to provide food security.
  5. Pakistani establishment needs to ensure that all proposed projects under the CPEC priority list meet international standards in order to get loans from other countries and international organizations.

Robina Khaliq
Department of Agronomy
University Of Agriculture Faisalabad

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