Pakistan is struggling to reverse the effects of low investment in agricultural research in the 1990s, according to experts.
Despite being an agricultural economy, the country's investment in agricultural research declined 31 per cent between 1991 and 2000, said M. E. Tusneem, Chairman of the Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC), at the Interprovincial Agricultural Research Coordination Committee held last month (14 March).
"The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) sources show a sharp decline in Pakistan agricultural research [in the 1990s], the lowest among SAARC countries," Tusneem said.
"Pakistan is currently facing many agricultural crises, only due to slackness of agricultural investment in the 1990s," Iftikhar Ahmed, a member of the Plant Sciences Division at PARC told SciDev.Net.
He adds that the low budget during this decade hindered recruitment, research and the building of new institutes — resulting in the loss of more than 150 experts,
including 53 researchers holding PhDs, which hampered ongoing projects and research.
PARC, the largest research institute in the country, has increased its plant and animal research budget by almost 100 per cent since 2005, according to Tusneem, with the government investing around one billion Pakistani rupees (US$15 million) in research and development.
Iftikhar says that PARC is now working on more than 200 projects, including wheat research, the building of a new genomics institute and establishing world-class laboratories.
''Agricultural development and the plight of agriculturists have never been a priority issue of our policy,'' says Khair Mohammad Junejo, the former federal minister for agriculture from 2000–2003. "[The] decline in agricultural research investment is very unfortunate because, in Pakistan, agriculture is key to prosperity, development, exports and industrial foundation".
Junejo says that Pakistan has good institutions and knowledge but lacks the mechanisms to disseminate this information to its farmers.
"Cotton is our main commodity. We have developed Bt cotton but, unfortunately, the government has not adopted it officially nor are private farmers allowed to use it. India and China are far ahead of Pakistan in this field."