Pakistan Businesses Forum (PBF) on Saturday asked the government to prioritise agriculture sector in its economic planning to avert shortages of essential goods. PBF Vice President and FPCCI Former Chairman Standing Committee on Agriculture, Ahmad Jawad said, “We have been experimenting with different ideas like rapid industrialization and private sector investments in the services sector in an attempt to give the economy a boost, and for it to function beyond the sphere of agricultural influence, however, the situation remained economically precarious. We have to understand that it is only a preponderate agriculture sector that would guarantee a prosperous future for country”. “Food security and to increase yields have been the top priorities for all developed countries. They have been exploring new avenues to achieve their targets of food self-sufficiency. Whereas we are still banking upon the primitive and antiquated ways of research at NARC and PARC. The budget allocation for the agriculture sector had been slashed by 48 per cent in the current fiscal,” he added. The agriculture sector has been witnessing a paradigm shift of capitulating its most fertile pieces of land to the housing societies. “Agriculture sector has proved to be the weakest link in the current macroeconomic planning and strategies,” he said. “Locust attacks, poor governance, bad planning, climate change and lack of investment in seed technology and agriculture research have already resulted in shortage of wheat, sugar and cotton. Import bill of cotton will also be substantially high owing to record low production.” Jawad said the government should enhance releasing of wheat to flour mills to ensure adequate supply of flour to consumers, besides monitoring the milling of wheat by flour mills at the same time. “Public has been suffering due to rising inflation and unemployment. The government should make every possible effort to provide relief to masses,” he said. With the import of a total of 1.8 million tons of wheat and the arrival of imported sugar prices of the commodities will fall in the market, pushing down the inflation rate in coming days which is the big concern of both businessmen and public. PBF official further said demand will now pick up after the two years of slowdown, as the steel, cement and construction allied industries are showing positive growth. “Since all the economic indicators are moving in positive direction the government should now divert its full attention to share the benefits of this positive movement in economic spheres with the public,” he added. He also said we have to get rid of the devil-may-care sense of complacency and should undertake a comprehensive water conservation strategy by focusing on building water reservoirs in politically less volatile regions. The bulk of Pakistan`s farmland is irrigated through a canal system, which is only generating a quarter of its actual operating and maintenance cost in terms of revenue collection. “An efficient tax regime aimed at subsiding the small farmers and taxing the large growers may help to bridge this gap,” he added.