Devolution of agricultural ministry to create food security: paper

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ISLAMABAD :The devolution of the agriculture ministry would create serious food security, international co-operation and agriculture research problems, as the provinces except Punjab do not have complete agri infrastructure along with different topography and soil structure.

The most import aspect is that agriculture may be a provincial subject but provision of food, research and professional/higher education are federal subjects and are part of Federal Legislative List of the Constitution. According to an official document with Business Recorder, agriculture is a federal subject across the globe, therefore, the government should not completely devolve the ministry. A federal agriculture department should be created to deal with the above-mentioned areas and keep ourselves abreast with international research and development in agriculture, the document added.

The government currently planning to devolve the ministry following provisions of 18th Amendment, must take into consideration creating a well-co-ordinated federal agriculture department, instead of spreading its functions to other ministries, a top officials told this scribe.

The document revealed that the world s leading economies including India, China, Iran, Thailand, USA, Russia, Brazil, Australia and Germany have agriculture ministries at federal level. Due to climate change and global warming, agriculture sector will have to take a lot of preventive measures with the help of international community; hence, a federal entity is needed to deal with the aided projects of an agro-based economy like Pakistan.

Keeping in view the Constitutional provisions (Chapter-2) and Federal Legislative List, the role of agriculture in the exports of Pakistan and critical issue of ensuring food security, it has been recommended that the ministry for food and agriculture should not be totally abolished at federal level, the paper said.

However, if the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (Minfa) has to be abolished it is recommended that a new division Food Security and Research be established to deal with provision of food being core function of the State and research which is covered under the Federal Legislative List. Agriculture and food have neither been mentioned in the Concurrent List (now abolished) nor in the Federal Legislative List.

Agricultural co-operation is an important part of protocols and the agreed minutes signed in the Joint Ministerial Commission (JMCs), Joint Economic Commissions (JECs) and Joint Trade Commissions (JTCs) with different countries. The Minfa is a signatory to a number of agreements and Memorandum of Understandings (MOUs) with different countries for co-operation in the agriculture sector.

Matters relating to agriculture at the platform of regional organisations such as the OIC, D-8, South Asian Association of Regional Corporation (Saarc) and the ECO would be hampered with the complete devolution of agriculture to provinces. The Minfa has joint ministerial/economic commissions with the following countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, UAE, Uzbekistan and Yemen. Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mauritius, Mexico, Nepal, Philippines, Spain, Sri Lanka, Thailand, USA, Vietnam, Yugoslavia and Zimbabwe.

The Minfa has signed MoUs/agreements with the following countries: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Chile, China, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Yugoslavia and Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Iran, Jordan, Malaysia, Mauritius, Morocco, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Yemen. A number of MoUs are in the pipeline with Algeria, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Tunisia.

As per the Principles of Policy Chapter 2 Article 37 and 38 of the Constitution of 1973: (a) it is the responsibility of the State/federal government, to make technical/professional and higher education accessible to all. (b) Enable the people of different areas through both agriculture and industrial development to participate fully in all forms of national activities including employment in the services of Pakistan (c) secure the well-being of the people to provide basic necessity of life such as food. Agriculture may be a provincial subject but provision of food, research and professional/higher education are federal subjects.

Currently, the following departments are functioning under the Minfa: Department of Plant Protection, Agriculture Policy Institute, Pakistan Agriculture research Council, Pakistan Agriculture and Livestock Product Marketing and Grading Department, Pakistan Oilseed Development Board, Pakistan Agricultural Storage & Supplies Corporation (Passco), Pakistan Central Cotton Committee (PCCC), Soil Survey of Pakistan, Federal Seed Certification and Registration Department, Federal Water Management Cell (FWMC), Directorate of Food Accounts and Directorate General of Food.

The following departments working under the Minfa may be abolished: Agriculture Policy Institute, Pakistan Agriculture and Livestock Product Marketing and Grading Department, Directorate of Food Accounts, Directorate General of Food, but the others may be retained through rightsizing/downsizing.

Courtesy: Business Recorder

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