Pakistan Food Sector Is Facing Multifaceted Challenges

The Middle East is one of the world’s most food-insecure regions. Geographical constraints and a scarcity of water limit the region’s agricultural and food production potential.

Pakistan Food Sector Is Facing Multifaceted Challenges

The Middle East is one of the world’s most food-insecure regions. Geographical constraints and a scarcity of water limit the region’s agricultural and food production potential. To meet domestic demand, they must rely on imported food. This situation gives Pakistan the opportunity to become the Middle East’s food basket. However, the current state of Pakistan agriculture sector and food sector prevents it from capitalising on the opportunity.

According to current statistics, Saudi Arabia must import 80 percent of its food, Kuwait 90 percent, the UAE 85 percent, and Qatar 90 percent to meet local demand. Food demand is expected to rise in the coming years as a result of population growth and diversification efforts. These countries are now looking for dependable partners that can provide Halal food (being Muslim, Halal food is mandatory for them).

Pakistan agriculture sector and food sector are facing numerous challenges. For starters, Pakistan has never been able to maximise land use through modern farming techniques and knowledge-based methods. As a result, Pakistan was unable to develop an agricultural sector capable of producing surplus in accordance with phytosanitary standards and regulations.

Second, agricultural, fruit, and livestock productivity is extremely low. The main reasons are inadequate research and development infrastructure and low-quality inputs. Third, there is a scarcity of financial resources and interest-free (Riba-free) loans. Fourth, the supply chain infrastructure is deplorable. Fifth, Pakistan has been unable to develop a food-related industry.

Pakistan remains a commodity market with poor business rationale. The cooperation will assist Pakistan in modernising the agriculture sector and food sector, as well as combating unemployment, food insecurity, and poverty. It will also provide a good source of foreign currency earnings. Pakistan lacks the financial and technological resources to address these issues.

As a result, it should seek out innovative ideas to capitalise on the opportunity. One of them is that Pakistan can form a trilateral partnership with China and the Middle East to create a win-win situation. There are numerous reasons why a proposition is a viable idea.

First, because Pakistan is in the neighbourhood, it will be able to provide fresh and high-quality food commodities. Second, as a Muslim country, Pakistan can guarantee Halal food. Finally, it has a diverse geography, which helps it produce diverse food.

Middle Eastern countries will also greatly benefit from the collaboration. For starters, they will have dependable partners who do not impose conditions on their cooperation. Second, they will have access to high-quality, fresh, and halal food in the neighbourhood. Third, because of the short distances and low labour costs in Pakistan, they will be able to obtain cheap food. Fourth, China and Pakistan will be trustworthy allies.

It will assist them in securing a sustainable food supply, which will assist them in achieving their goal of food security. It will open up new avenues for China to export agricultural and food-related technology. As a result, Chinese technological firms will benefit from increased business opportunities. Second, China can import some Pakistani food commodities and products.

Furthermore, Pakistan is home to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which can be used as a trilateral forum for cooperation. China and Pakistan are already discussing CPEC expansion and the inclusion of third parties. As a result, the proposed collaboration can serve as a starting point.

However, it is necessary to take baby steps and build trilateral cooperation with countries one at a time. Although regional countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, Qatar, Oman, and Bahrain have great potential for cooperation, we recommend beginning with Saudi Arabia because it is the largest.

However, before doing business, a trilateral framework of cooperation should be developed while keeping each partner’s strengths in mind. Following the signing of the cooperation framework, Saudi Arabia, China, and Pakistan should concentrate on four areas to make the venture successful.

To begin, they should establish a joint agro-food special zone in a specific geographical area. A special zone should be established by analysing the agricultural and livestock potential in the chosen area.

Furthermore, the food industry should follow the area’s strengthening. For example, if the chosen area is rich in livestock, then the proposed special zone should include livestock and dairy-related industries.

Second, the three countries should work together to modernise the supply chain to global standards. They can start working by establishing a “Joint Transport Company.” Third, storage and laboratory facilities should be built. Storage facilities are required to preserve the shelf life of agricultural and food commodities. Laboratories will help ensure phytosanitary standards for the export.

Fourth, by pooling financial resources, a specialised “Trilateral Food and Agriculture Development Fund” should be established. The fund should provide funding for agricultural practises, transportation, and the food industry. The primary goal of the fund should be to invest in R&D to modernise the agriculture and food sectors.

Following the successful implementation of the proposed plan, China and Pakistan will be able to establish new special zones for other regional countries. Kuwait and Qatar are the next best options for this purpose, as both rely heavily on imported food. It is worth noting that Kuwait is eager to invest in agriculture in Pakistan and expand food trade with that country.