Dr. Aslam Pervez Umrani via AgriHunt

LIVESTOCK, AS a sub-sector of agriculture in Pakistan, contributes significantly to the health and economy of rural communities and the nation as a whole. During 1998-99, livestock sector contributed 9 per cent to the GDP and 37 per cent to the agriculture sector. It earned foreign exchange worth of Rs. 14930 million which formed about 5.3 per cent of the overall export earnings of the country. Livestock was also responsible for supplying 16 per cent of total household energy in the form of dung.

In Pakistan, 73.5 per cent of the farms fall in the range of 0 to 5 hectares whereas only 9.1 per cent are over 10 hectares in size. The majority of livestock belongs to landless or small farmers and it is kept under extensive farming. The 84 per cent of farmers keep 1 to 6 number of livestock and only 16 per cent possess above 6 number of livestock.

According to the 1996 Livestock Census, 99.4 million tons of milk was produced per day in Pakistan, out of which the contributions of Punjab, Sindh, NWFP and Balochistan were 54.6, 32.5, 9.4 and 3.5 per cent respectively. Total animals slaughtered in Pakistan were 16.7 million heads, out of which shares of Punjab, Sindh, NWFP and Balochistan were 58.7, 20.3, 12.0 and 9.0 per cent respectively. The total production of various livestock products from 1996 to 1999 showed a steady increase, except in poultry. Our policy makers have always underestimated the exact contribution of livestock to the household and the national economy. Part of the problem is a lack of knowledge about the role of livestock in rural household economy.

In addition to main economic trains mentioned above, livestock also contributes in the production of organic fertilizer and fuel and in the use of marginal nutritional resources which are not directly accessible to mankind. Beside these, the live animal’s traction power is a permanent contribution to small farmers’ economies.

Risk avoidance is other economic role of the livestock which poorly understood and is never economically accounted for. Risks are of climatic and economic nature, such as failure of crops or lower prices in the market. These risks shatter the whole economy of small farmers. One way of limiting the risks is the diversification of family labour and financial resources into crops and animal species.

Hence livestock works as a buffer between the small farmers economy and disaster. Small animals, particularly sheep, goat and poultry and their products (milk, meat and eggs), are consumed by farmers themselves which enrich their regular diets with much needed essential animo acids.

Small ruminants and poultry also provide additional income to rural women folk, which they use of health, education, travel or other emergency needs. Sheep and goats have the capacity to utilise low-quality feeds, such as pasture, crop and industrial by-products which have only few alternative uses and they convert them into high value products.

These higher value products can either be consumed or be exchanged for other foods which provide a cheaper source of energy and protein.

In Pakistan where inflation is high and value of rupee depreciates constantly, the live animal savings represent substantial economic gain. For example, the prices of mutton in 1976, 1986 and 1999 were Rs.13, 30 and 120 respectively, which shows that the price of mutton increased about 10 times since then. This may be one of the main reasons that livestock population has been increasing substantially. The higher prices for buffalo milk and goat meat have particularly encouraged the farmers to increase their population.

At the national level, in the year 1998-99, livestock contributed 5.27 per cent to the total export earnings of the country. The major exports were leather and leather goods. However, exports have declined compared to previous years.

The demand of livestock food products is growing fast because Pakistan’s human population is increasing at the rate of 2.9 per cent annually. If population pressure continues to grow and livestock production stays at the same level, then food deficit may become larger. Even in the present conditions, we are paying Rs.400 million for the purchase of milk powder to meet our summer months’ milk demand.

According to one recent survey, in the year 2003, milk, red meat and poultry meat deficit will be 9.72, 0.17 and 0.14 million tons if our livestock production stays at the same level.

The livestock sector has faced not only neglect and a lack of interest, but also an outright bias from our national and provincial policy makers and politicians. This situation is reflected in the very limited number of programmes or projects promoting livestock development.

The challenge that lies ahead is how to reverse this situation. It requires very clearly defined strategy to strengthen the small livestock farmers and household livestock production systems which undoubtedly bring economic and social improvement at the family, village, provincial and national levels.

By Web Team

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