Rising wheat crisis | Pakistan eyeing corporate farming

The Post | 12 October 2008

Talks on with investors from Qatar, UAE and Saudi Arabia | 25,000 Punjab villages will be affected

The Post Monitoring

ISLAMABAD: Amid rising food insecurity across the world and while wheat crop has been turned into a political crop in the country, Pakistan is entering into corporate farming, Kuwait News Agency reported Saturday.

"Pakistan is slowly opening to the corporate farming and is currently holding talks with foreign investors from at least three Gulf countries including Qatar, UAE and Saudi Arabia," an official of Pakistan's Food Ministry told KUNA on the condition of anonymity.

The official said that a Qatar-based company has shown keen interest in the government's Kollurkar farm located in the Punjab province, near capital. He said a series of talks are being held in this regard and hoped to finalize the feasibility report on it soon.

The official said that the corporate farming would create a win-win situation, adding that it will not only satisfy the food needs of the Pakistanis but the government will also have surplus for export as the companies have better technology than our farmers.

Beside, the three countries, said the official, China, Germany and other Gulf countries have also shown interest in corporate farming in Pakistan.

The likely projects of corporate farming include fruit juice plant, production of furfural from sugarcane bagasses, cattle farming, meat processing, dairy farming, fisheries, horticulture, off-season vegetables production, sunflower hybrid seed production, solvent oil extraction from rice bran, production of mutton through raising of sheep and goats, animal feed mills, and paper board from local fibre.

According to the Board of Invesment (BOI) the available land for corporate farming, as per reports of the provinces, include 31,111 acres in Punjab and 6.6 million acres in Cholistan.

The idea of corporate farming is not a new idea as it is already part of the Companies' Act 1984. However, the new civilian government has started serious work on it after it was suggested by a friendly Middle Eastern state during the President's recent visit to the country.

Unlike the optimism of the federal government, the idea of corporate farming has evoked more fears than hopes among farmers as the new policy package for its implementation involves coordinated work of about eleven ministries including the federal ministry of industries and production and the Board of Investment.

The corporate farming is a beautiful world and in a country like Pakistan it will only create poverty, dislocate thousands of families, Ibrahim Mughal, the head of Pakistan Farmers Forum (PFF), told KUNA.

He said 80 percent of the farming is being done in eastern Punjab province and when the lands will be provided to the private investor it will dislocate 25,000 villages.

He said currently seven million families in Pakistan are doing agribusiness and six million of them have very small holding, adding that recommending corporate farming for 93 percent of these families is "a good joke".

He recommended the government to instead of corporate farming, initiate the policy of contract farming and provide credits and better technology to the local farmers so that the producer remains the owner.

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