ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Climate Change, Senator Mushahidullah Khan has said that promoting horticulture in the country can help convert large-scale cultivable wasteland into a huge economic opportunity and such initiative can help tackle escalating food security and unemployment.
“Millions of people in the country, the vast majority of them women and children, suffer from micronutrient deficiencies. However, horticultural crops can play a vital role in solving this national micronutrient crisis and in return boosts incomes and job opportunities, particularly for women,” the minister said while addressing an inaugural ceremony of the large Horticulture Park here on Tuesday.
The horticulture park has been established by the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) in an initiative to boost the horticulture sector in the country. Quoting reports of international researcher organization, he said that horticulture crop production can create new jobs. On average, it provides twice the amount of employment per hectare of production compared to cereal crop production.
Besides generating jobs on the farm, the horticultural sector also generates off-farm employment, especially for women, Khan added. He told the participants of the event that Pakistan with diverse soil and climate comprising several agro-ecological regions provided ample opportunity to grow a variety of horticulture crops.
These crops form a significant part of total agricultural produce in the country comprising of fruits, vegetables, root and tuber crops, flowers, ornamental plants, medicinal and aromatic plants, spices, condiments, plantation crops and mushrooms, Mushahidullah Khan added.
He highlighted that within agriculture, accounts for 25 percent share to national GDP and over 40 percent employments, the horticulture is a sector of unprecedented economic value. For, it contributes production of fruits 6.2 million tons, vegetables 5.0 million tons, citrus 2.0 million tons, mangoes 1.0 million tons, dates 0.63 million tons and apples 0.4 million tons.
“Pakistan, earns over 120 million dollar in foreign exchange reserve annually from export of the horticulture productions. By further boosting area under horticulture all over the country, such income can be increased significantly,” the minister said.
He highlighted that the horticultural sub-sector sector of the agriculture already plays a unique role in the country’s agro-based economy. This sector offers a promising role in improving the income of the rural people, where most of the hungry and poor people live.
Mushahidullah Khan told the participants that fruits and vegetables are also rich source of vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, etc, which are essential in human nutrition. Hence, these are referred to as protective foods and assumed great importance as nutritional security of the people. “Thus, cultivation of horticultural crops plays a vital role in the prosperity of a nation and is directly linked with the health and happiness of the people,” Khan stressed.
He called for need to utilize huge cultivable wasteland, which is lying idle, and bring it under orchard crops without curtailing the area under food crops.
The country has abundant sunshine throughout year, surplus labour and widely varied agro-climatic conditions, which offers high potential for successful and profitable commercial horticulture, the minister said. The recent emphasis on horticulture in our country consequent to the recognition of the need for attaining nutrition security and for more profitable land use, has brought about a significant change in the outlook of the growers.
“The need for great utilisation of available wastelands against the background of dwindling water and energy resources has focused attention to dry land, to arid and semi-arid tracts and to horticultural; crops which have lesser demands on water and other inputs besides being 3 to 4 times more remunerative than field crops.
Talking about impacts of climate change on horticulture sector, the minister said that farmers are fast losing their produce of different horticulture crops, particularly mango, guava, apple, apricot, dates, tomato, potato and different flowers to the negative impacts of climate change, particularly heat wave, torrential rains, floods, salinity and heavy winds.
“For instance, during recent heat wave, mango farmers in Punjab and Sindh lost their crops over a big number of hectares while the farmers in northern areas have lost almost every crop to the recent devastating floods,” he recalled. He urged the agriculture and horticulture scientists to introduce such crop varieties, which are resilient to these negative impacts of climate change.
Representatives of the FWO and others from different relevant government and non-governmental sector also spoke on the occasion and lauded FWO’s initiative of Horticulture Park.