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Agriculture development under CPEC to reduce trade deficit with China: SBP

ISLAMABAD: The recent inclusion of agriculture sector in the Long Term Plan of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) provides Pakistan an opportunity to significantly reduce its huge trade deficit of around US$9 billion with China.

In agriculture sector, out of China’s global food imports of around $99.6 billion, Pakistan’s share is only around 0.37 percent (roughly $ 0.4 billion).

The CPEC long term plan envisages significant development of the agriculture sector of Pakistan – an often-overlooked area amidst the developments being made in the energy, infrastructure, and industrial sectors of the country, said an annual report “State of Economy 2017-18” launched by State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).

Pakistan can enhance its exports through various CPEC initiatives and by tapping into the growing import dependence of China.

According to the report, the Ministry of National Food Security and Research (MNFSR), in its 2018 Food Security Policy, envisages the development of nine agricultural development zones along the CPEC.

By encouraging innovation, entrepreneurship, and collaboration, the zones could serve as platforms to develop clusters and infrastructure to nurture emerging rural businesses in an effort to produce commodities deemed exportable to China. These commodities include cereals, dairy, eggs, meat, honey, tobacco, seafood and fruits, and others.

Meanwhile according to sources in Planning Ministry, a major progress is expected during the visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to China early next month where the two countries may sign a legal framework agreement under the corridor to bring investment in the sector and exporting surplus produce to feed the growing Chinese population.

The report added that in the crop sector, there is a focus on increasing the use of modern machinery and synthetic fertilizers to enhance the yields, while food storage and processing zones would be constructed to reduce significant post-harvest losses.

Similarly, the building of cold storage stations and meat processing plants is also being planned to enhance productivity of livestock and fisheries sectors besides making their output more competitive in the international market. These developments hold the potential to not only boost the agriculture output of the country, but also to narrow the trade imbalance between China and Pakistan by expanding food exports to the former.

The report pointed out that due to growing demand of processed food in China, the country has been planning to start investment in the agriculture sector in all the countries along its broader Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). China has so far invested $3.4 billion in agriculture sector abroad.

China intends to develop various food processing and storage stations across BRI economies to mitigate price fluctuations and increase supply of food products for the domestic market.

Resultantly, China intends to develop various food processing and storage stations across BRI economies to mitigate price fluctuations and increase supply of food products for the domestic market.

The development of agriculture sector under CPEC can also serve as an opportunity to modernize the processing segment of the agriculture sector.

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