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The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was largely conceived as a transport and energy project, rather than a possible engine of growth with better regional connectivity. It is critical to establish a clear narrative regarding Pakistan’s economy in the future—trading or manufacturing nation or following prior approaches of import substitution. Experts suggest in the short to medium term it is more feasible to harvest the low-hanging fruit and for this reason the long-term CPEC plan 2017–2030 has cited agriculture as a priority sector. Pakistan’s federal government under the leadership of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insafe party is aggressively identifying procedures to provide a much-needed boost for the sector and utilize CPEC as a growth vent. In that regard, this chapter is primarily concerned with the development of competitive agriculture and agro-industry in priority regions. To establish competitiveness, trade policies must be given priority. This chapter looks at two aspects of CPEC through an agricultural lens: (1) how to unlock the agricultural potential of the country in some traditional crops, livestock and horticulture; and (2) value addition and the present and prospective agricultural trade regime and future potential, especially in the light of CPEC’s better connectivity. Pakistani agriculture is largely producing low-value crops and trade is dominated by agriculture and agro-based products and would continue to be so for some time to come. The chapter also highlights that the identified clusters of agriculture value chains in four corridor zones, especially the central zone (Indus Basin) classified under the CPEC project which carries a comparative advantage in producing a diversified crop mix, have not been fully exploited. In order to translate this comparative advantage into a competitive advantage, there is a need not only to develop clusters of commercially viable farming, processing and service firms located in specific geographical areas, but also to adopt good global production and trade practices. This chapter aims to critically evaluate the policies and investment priorities pursued in developing CPEC in general and agriculture and agro-industry in particular.
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The JWG for agriculture is tasked with engaging with experts and policymakers in China. There are two points: first, this shows how serious the country has been in preparing for the important and critical tasks—to prepare such an important document within a span of less than one month, a task should have been conceived and prepared in the past based on professional work covering the technical, economic, social and environmental aspect for sound policy deliberations and negotiations, so it seems that again we will go to China without clear preparation or directions. Second, the composition of the task force largely includes those who have been policymakers or have had a great say in the decision space in the past two decades—policies which to us have largely failed in both the agriculture and water sectors. We need new and innovative ideas coming from public, private and academia with a reasonable mix of economists and technical experts and small farmers, who have been largely left out of the past development paradigm.
The Water Informatics Center (WIT) at Lahore University of Management Sciences has been awarded a contract by the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan to find ways to attract the private sector to further develop and market precision agricultural technology developed at WIT to farmers at low cost.
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- Developing a Competitive Agriculture and Agro-based Industry under CPEC
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