Published On: Fri, Aug 14th, 2015

Climate change to hamper wheat, rice production in Pakistan: study

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Over the years, productivity of wheat and rice, the major staple crops of Pakistan will fall in the country due to the impact of climate change, according to a new study.

Shakeel Ahmed
MULTAN

A research conducted by a team of agriculture scientists and scholars under the Agricultural Model Inter-comparison and Improvement Project (AMIP) forecasts up to a 30 per cent reduction in per acre yield of rice and up to 19.04 per cent in wheat production by 2050.
Dr Shakeel Ahmed, Assistant Professor Agronomy Department, Bahauddin Zakariya University Multan, who is also a co-investigator in the study says the project was initiated to quantify the impact of climate change and major staple crops, i.e. rice and wheat and the overall agriculture system.
Two major crop models were integrated with an economic model, and as many as 155 farmers from five rice and wheat producing districts of Punjab, i.e. Hafizabad, Shekhupura, Gujranwala, Sialkot and Nankana Sahib were selected for the study.
“If the current production system prevails in the future, almost 69 to 82 per cent of the farmers would be at a loss due to the troubled climate while the poverty rate would be between 33 to 38 per cent,” the report said.
According to the report, productivity of high genetic potential varieties will increase by at least 50 per cent in the future due to advancement in research. Hence, the farmer community will intensify efforts to increase the production per unit of land by investing in modern technologies.
“To achieve high productivity and meet the need of growing population, it would be required to increase the sowing density by up to 30 per cent for wheat and 15 per cent for rice, whereas the fertiliser use would be increased up to 25 per cent for wheat and 15 per cent for rice,” reads the report.
The report adds the cropping season of both crops would also be affected due to the high temperature, and the sowing season for wheat would be reserved to 15 days, and five days for rice.
Dr Ahmed says the study was conducted by recording weather pattern from 1980 to 2010 and its future forecast from 2040 to 2070.
“There is a need to make farming resilient to the impact of extreme weather as a majority of the farmers do not understand the threat of climate change on their lives and profession,” he says, adding there is a need for a micro-level study of different aspects of agriculture sector and the effect on it because of climate change.
“Steps are required to initiate advocacy campaigns to highlight this impact.”
Meanwhile, Dr Imran Sharif, Head of the Economics Department at Bahauddin Zakariya University says agriculture is the most vulnerable sector to climate change in Pakistan.
“Erratic weather patterns, extreme temperature and changing rainfall trends are badly affecting the agriculture sector of Pakistan – the sixth most populous country in the world,” he says.
The department head argues that since the last few years, the country was facing a loss of more than $5 billion on an annual basis due to the environmental degradation caused by prolonged droughts, as well as floods.
“The share of agriculture sector in country’s GDP in 1949-50 was 53 per cent. It shrank to 21.4 per cent in 2012-13,” he says.
According to Dr Sharif, both wheat and rice have a cultivated area of about 8.8 and 2.4 million hectors respectively with an annual production of wheat being more than 24 million tonnes and of rice over five million tonnes.
“However, the farmers are now moving to cash crops such as cotton as they were not getting a fair price,” the department head says. “This will aggravate the situation in the country where more than 50 per cent of the population faces food insecurity.”

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