Corporate farming

Pakistan's proposal to allow multinationals into its agriculture sector may be bad news for the environment

 
By Muddassir Rizvi
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015 | 02:50:09 AM

pakistan's military rulers have announced plans to allow entry of multinational companies in the agricultural sector as part of its economic reforms. Corporate farming is being seen as the future of the country's agriculture.

The controversial decision was made public when the finance minister unveiled the annual budget for 2000-2001 recently. It is alleged that the decision was a result of the pressure from donor countries and agencies, particularly the International Monetary Fund.

The announcement has evoked a sharp response from food rights groups and farmers' organisations. They feel the decision will be detrimental to the future of traditional farming practices and sustainable livelihoods. "This step will cause massive rural unemployment and increase food insecurity in the country," views Shahid Zia, research fellow with the Islamabad-based Sustainable Development Policy Institute.

Renowned economist and environmentalist Tariq Banuri rejected the idea of corporate farming as socially, environmentally and politically irresponsible. "Corporate economy will suck the natural resources that are the base of livelihood economy in Pakistan, causing displacement and impoverishment of local farmers," he says.

Multi-billion dollar transnational companies such as DuPont, Monsanto, Novartis, Pioneer Group and AgriVo are already marketing various seed in Pakistan. "These companies are ready to enter our lucrative agricultural markets, but not before we put in place conducive economic policies," commented an official of the ministry of commerce.

However, the government firmly believes that corporate farms will change the outlook of the country's agriculture, whose growth has been stagnant for the past one decade. "We have to integrate our economy with the global economy, otherwise we will be left out in this day of competition and technology," argues Afaq Tiwana, member of the Agriculture Advisory Group, formed by the military government under chief executive Pervez Musharraf to suggest ways to improve agricultural productivity. "We are bound to facilitate corporate farming also because we are a signatory of World Trade Organisation agreements," says Tiwana. However, some economists believe that Pakistan will not be able to attract foreign investors in view of the law and order problem, inconsistent economic policies and unstable political situation.

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