MULTAN, Nov 5 (APP): The agricultural landscape in Pakistan is experiencing a monumental shift with the ascent of corporate agriculture. Large-scale corporations are now pivotal players in various aspects of food production, employing modern technology and contemporary methods to streamline farming, processing, distribution, and marketing.
While the benefits of corporate agriculture are evident in terms of efficiency, market stability, innovation, economic growth and global outreach, it also presents challenges and opportunities for small-scale farmers who struggle to access modern agricultural tools due to financial constraints.
Emergence of large agricultural corporations also brings forth concerns about environmental impact, land ownership consolidation and potential adversities faced by small-scale farmers and local communities.
Therefore, coexistence of corporate and small farmers becomes vital for an overall economic growth and sustainability. But striking a balance between the two can be the only way forward to protect small farmers interests and ensure their existence.
Such formulae had already been practices by leading agricultural nations like United States, Brazil, China and India, where both corporate and small-scale farming contribute significantly to their countries progress.
“Harmonious collaboration between corporate and small-scale farming is important to put country on a path to matchless progress and prosperity,” remarked Dr Irfan Baig, the Dean of Social Sciences at Muhammad Nawaz Sharif University of Agriculture, Multan.
“Empowerment of small farmers involves leveraging their unique strengths by equipping them with modern tools enabling to compete effectively in modern agricultural landscape,” Dr Baig stated.
He highlighted that the corporate sector’s role is crucial in introducing advanced technology such as GPS, sensors, drones, biotechnology tools, robotics, data analysis and farm management software that can also benefit small farmers.
Experts also believe that embracing new agricultural practices like crop rotation, diversification, vertical farming, hydroponics, conservation tillage, integrated approaches, smart greenhouses and contract farming can significantly assist small-scale farmers to prosper.
Access to modern technology and information is also paramount to equip small farmers with the latest advancements and knowledge to enhance productivity and earn more revenue.
But, it has been commonly witnessed that with the start of massive corporate activity in any sector the small level players are swayed in the mighty tides of huge commercial businesses.
“Therefore, we need to impart essential training and financial support to our small farmers for their very existence,” said Malik Arif, a small farmer. “Financial support is of utmost importance besides specialized training and encouragement for small farmers to focus on value-added production and sustainable farming practices.”
He advocates for the implementation of strategies to assist small farmers in navigating the competitive landscape alongside corporate agriculture.
Then there would also be marketing issues as with bulk production of any commodities the businessmen and brokers would be inclined more to big farmers than the smaller ones and their products would be paid lesser heed.
However, there can be a possibility of security as we saw in case of milk producing companies in the countries who reach out to even small villages for collection of milk and the milk producing farmers get their due dividend.
Naseer Ullah Khan, heading an agricultural division in a prominent corporate entity was hopeful that integration of modern technology in agriculture sector would provide ample opportunities for small farmers as well, to grow.
“Corporate farming would play a pivotal role in modernize the agricultural sector by bringing in new technologies,” he said. “What we need is to prepare our farmers to benefit from these technologies to compete in emerging scenario.”
Acknowledging the challenges and opportunities, Naseer Ullah Khan anticipates a positive future for both corporate and small-scale farmers, affirming that small farmers also learn and grow within the corporate environment.
“When the corporate entities would be earning reasonable profit after spending huge amounts on technology, preparation of farms, the benefit would also trickle down to small farmers,” he hoped.
He said the coexistence of corporate agriculture and safeguarding small farmers are not conflicting goals rather complementary facets of a thriving agricultural sector.
We can hope that when there are new technologies, modern techniques of farming, better quality seeds and awareness sessions, the small farmers would also definitely benefit from these opportunities. But, we would direly need to adopt balancing approach through strategic support and implementation of favorable policies for small farmers.
Additional Chief Secretary South Punjab, Captain (Rtd) Saqib Zafar has underscored importance of utilizing uninhabited lands for cultivation as he supports integration of corporate sector into new agricultural lands like Cholistan.
Although, he has reiterated the government’s commitment to promoting agricultural sector through implementation of effective policies and initiatives, yet he fell short of presenting a comprehensive plan to protect the interests of small farmers.
Therefore, fostering an environment where small farmers are equipped and empowered to thrive within the evolving landscape of corporate agriculture is crucial for their overall progress and sustainability.
Collaboration, innovation, provision of better seeds and cheaper inputs, easy access to market and proper payment of their products can prove to be the cornerstones for achieving a balanced and successful coexistence between corporate and small-scale farming.
APP/atf/maz (APP Feature Service)