ISLAMABAD: Despite the COVID-19 Pandemic, the agriculture sector in the country witnessed about 2.77 percent growth during the financial year 2020-21 as against the set target of 2.8 percent, which was mainly attributed to the timely interventions of the government and the introduction of financial and policy measures to minimize the impact of the global pandemic. The growth of important crops including wheat, rice, sugarcane, maize, and cotton during the year registered at 4.65 percent, whereas the production of major Kharif crops such as sugarcane, maize, and rice indicated considerable improvement, compared to last year and surpassed the production targets, according to the Economic Survey of Pakistan launched here on Thursday. The production of sugarcane increased by 22.0 percent and reached 81.009 million tons from 66.380 million tonnes. Rice production increased by 13.6 percent to 8.419 million tonnes from 7.414 million tonnes and maize by 7.4 percent to 8.465 million tonnes from 7.883 million tonnes, it added. However, the cotton crop suffered mainly due to a decline in area under crop production, heavy monsoon rains, and pest attacks. The cotton production reduced by 22.8 percent to 7.064 million bales from 9.148 million bales last year. Wheat, the most important Rabi crop, showed growth of 8.1 percent and reached a record high production level of 27.293 million tonnes compared to 25.248 million tonnes last year. For Rabi crops 2020-21, the government had provided a comprehensive “Rabi Package” comprising of subsidies on fertilizer, fungicides, and weedicides, together with an increase in the minimum support price of wheat to Rs1,800 per 40 Kg. Other crops having a share of 11.69 percent in agriculture value addition and 2.24 percent in GDP showed growth of 1.41 percent because of an increase in production of fodder, vegetables, and fruits. However, cotton ginning declined by 15.58 percent due to a fall in the production of cotton crops. The overall crops sector, having a share of 35.81 percent in agriculture value addition and 6.87 percent in GDP, witnessed a growth of 2.47 percent. Water availability during Kharif 2020 remained at 65.1 million acre-feet (MAF), showing a slight decrease of 0.2 percent compared to 65.2 MAF of Kharif 2019. Rabi season 2020-21 received 31.2 MAF, showing an increase of 6.9 percent over Rabi 2019-20. Domestic production of fertilizer during the fiscal year 2020-21 from (July-March) increased by 5.9 percent over the same period of the previous year, mainly due to an increase in the supply of additional gas. There was an upsurge in total off-take of fertilizer nutrients by 15.2 percent, largely due to upward revision in support price of wheat and decreased urea price by 12 percent. From July-March, 2020-21, local tractor production increased by 57. 5 percent as total tractor production was 36,653 compared to 23,266 produced last year. The production increase was largely due to an improved liquidity position of farmers. The agriculture lending institutions have disbursed Rs 953.7 billion during July-March, FY2021, which is 63.6 percent of the overall annual target of Rs 1,500 billion and 4.6 percent higher than the disbursement of Rs 912.2 billion made during the same period last year. Livestock has a share of 60.07 percent in agriculture and 11.53 percent in GDP, achieved a growth of 3.06 percent. Meanwhile, with a share of 2.01 percent in agriculture value addition and 0.39 percent in GDP, the fishing sector grew by 0.73 percent. The forestry sector has a share of 2.10 percent in agriculture, and 0.40 percent in GDP, which grew by 1.42 percent.