Agriculture provides sustenance to many, food to all, and employment to 42%+ of Pakistan’s workforce. In addition to these intrinsic positive reasons to invest in agriculture, there are other instrumental reasons: poor agricultural performance can lead to inflation, political and social disaffection, and restiveness— all of which can hold back the economy and scare of food security. There are intrinsic as well as instrumental reasons for prioritizing agriculture.
The Nobel Prize winner, Sir Arthur Lewis, showed that economic development is always and everywhere about getting people out of agriculture and of agriculture becoming over time a less important part of the economy (not in absolute terms but as a share of GDP). But this must happen along with rapid productivity growth, farm mechanization, human resource reduction by ensuring rising farm incomes and adequate food supplies for the people. The reason why agriculture cannot be the dominant source of livelihood is that levels of productivity and hence living standards can never approach— and have historically never approached— those in manufacturing and services. That, of course, means that we must get our industrialization and urbanization right for the alternatives to agriculture to become meaningful, prosperous alternatives. We add to the value addition to the agri-products and have higher productivity linked to the value chain focus. In Pakistan we have to strive for industrialization and value addition linked to agriculture for a sustainable economic growth.