Agricultural and Economic Policy Scholars

Four UAF Assistant Professors visit UC Davis to analyze current agricultural policies in Punjab and across Pakistan.

Clockwise, from upper left- Dr. Tahira Sadaf, Dr. Abdul Ghafoor, Dr. M. Uzair Qamar, & Dr. Azhar Abbas.
Clockwise, from upper left- Dr. Tahira Sadaf, Dr. Abdul Ghafoor, Dr. M. Uzair Qamar, & Dr. Azhar Abbas.

Clockwise, from upper left- Dr. Tahira Sadaf, Dr. Abdul Ghafoor, Dr. M. Uzair Qamar, & Dr. Azhar Abbas.

Clockwise, from upper left- Dr. Tahira Sadaf, Dr. Abdul Ghafoor, Dr. M. Uzair Qamar, & Dr. Azhar Abbas.

USPCAS-AFS recently hosted four policy exchange scholars from the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad (UAF), who visited UC Davis for six weeks of immersive agricultural and economic policy discussions. Dr. Azhar Abbas and Dr. Tahira Sadaf from the Institute of Agricultural & Resource Economics, Dr. M. Uzair Qamar from the Department of Irrigation & Drainage, and Dr. Abdul Ghafoor from the Institute of Business Management Sciences arrived in February, each with an specific area of policy that they planned to investigate. The four UAF assistant professors were matched with UC Davis mentoring faculty from the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ARE) and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

As part of the exchange visit, a two day policy workshop on February 27-28 was hosted by USPCAS-AFS and the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at UC Davis. The workshop, which focused on agriculture policies in Punjab and Pakistan, featured research presentations by David Spielman from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and from each of the visiting policy scholars.

Recently, the government of Punjab tasked the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, with helping draft agriculture policies that would stimulate production and food security in the province of Punjab. The Vice-Chancellor of UAF, Dr. Iqrar Ahmad Khan, created a committee of UAF faculty members with the expertise needed for actionable recommendations. Each of the four visiting Assistant Professors are members of that guidance committee.

During their six-week exchange visit, the four policy scholars worked closely with their UC Davis faculty mentors to develop specific policy recommendations for agriculture in Punjab. More broadly, the scholars observed how education and research are conducted at UC Davis, and all plan to return to UAF with ideas and insights into improving the delivery of higher education.

Dr. Azhar Abbas

Dr. Azhar Abbas, an Assistant Professor in the Institute of Agricultural and Resource Economics at UAF, investigated the international competitiveness of cotton production in Pakistan. Dr. Abbas’s main objective was to analyze the recent trends in the cotton trade and evaluate the effects of policy interventions, such as tariffs or subsidies. He was mentored by Dr. Dan Sumner, Director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center and member of the ARE faculty.

Pakistan is the world’s fourth largest producer of cotton, and yarn & cloth exports account for 55% of the country’s export earnings. Yet, cotton production in the country has declined recently, resulting in an increase of raw cotton imports from 0.98 million bales in 2014 to 2.5 million bales in 2015-16. Over 1.6 million farmers in Pakistan raise cotton, and the textile and garment industry employs over 14 million workers. By estimating the international competitiveness of Pakistan’s cotton production, Dr. Abbas hopes to recommend specific resource allocations which will maintain production levels.

“This method of estimating competitiveness tells the impact of different policies followed, such as subsidies or taxation, within the last few years,” stated Dr. Abbas. “Despite being one of the leading producers of cotton in the world, it has been very difficult for Pakistan to maintain its competitive edge.”

One of the conclusions reached by Dr. Abbas was that improving cotton storage and marketing systems may strengthen domestic production, and recommended that local textile demands be met by increased domestic production rather than imports. “After many discussions with my mentor, Dr. Dan Sumner, I have modified my analytical approach and revised my draft report. I plan to include an account on the nature of subsidies on cotton production and transportation costs, which will be useful for policy officials.”

Dr. Tahira Sadaf

Dr. Tahira Sadaf, also an Assistant Professor of the Institute of Agricultural and Resource Economics at UAF, addressed trade liberalization of the wheat crop of Pakistan. Wheat makes up over 75% of total food grain production in Pakistan, and Dr. Sadaf worked to determine how various policies influenced wheat supply and economic demand. She identified problematic issues in current wheat price policy, including current wheat procurement mechanisms, pricing support systems, and protectionist interventions that adversely affect Pakistan’s wheat production and trade. Dr. Sadaf drafted a policy document that suggested opening up Pakistan’s wheat markets, and discussed her analysis extensively with Dr. Colin Carter, Distinguished Professor of the Dept. of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Davis.

One outcome of Dr. Sadaf’s exchange visit was an idea for a new research project analyzing the welfare effect of collective policies along the wheat value chain in Pakistan. By examining the disaggregated nominal rate of assistance among various groups, she hopes to learn more about who exactly benefits the most from current economic interventions. Dr. Sadaf also praised the efforts of the UC Davis faculty and USPCAS-AFS staff, and urged the current USPCAS students to “take as many positive things as you can from UC Davis, and return to UAF with a positive change in both your attitude and work ethic.”

Dr. M. Uzair Qamar

Dr. Muhammad Uzair Qamar, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Irrigation and Drainage at UAF, studied and examined the Punjab irrigation system and pricing structure. After determining current operation and maintenance costs of the irrigation system in Punjab and analyzing current data, Dr. Qamar came up with specific recommendations to finance maintenance of the irrigation canals that cross Punjab. Dr. Qamar worked closely with Dr. Jay Lund in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering to complete the pricing analysis and finalize policy suggestions.

Reliable irrigation from canals is vital to the food security of Pakistan, but the irrigation network in Punjab is managed through several provincial infrastructure agencies. These agencies are legally obligated to reclaim operating and maintenance costs from farmers based on water usage, but only 20% of O&M costs are being recaptured through the current pricing structure. The pricing discrepancy affects the ability to maintain and repair canal infrastructure, adversely affecting the water supply in the irrigation system. When irrigation canals cannot meet local demand, farmers rely on pumping groundwater, depleting critical aquifers. This vicious cycle of water scarcity could be prevented by correctly valuing the cost of canal-driven irrigation water, says Dr. Qamar.

“After our analysis, we found that water costs are being severely underpriced in almost all distribution branches of the canal systems. One of our policy recommendations would be to incrementally increase the water costs to farmers, which would recover the cost of infrastructure maintenance,” stated Dr. Qamar. “We can provide reasonable subsidies to farmers for other inputs, but charging more for water would also encourage farmers to invest in water-saving technologies. However, we should teach farmers about the importance of pricing water use to sustain the irrigation system before actually increasing irrigation prices.”

Dr. Abdul Ghafoor

Dr. Abdul Ghafoor, an Assistant Professor in the Institute of Business Management Sciences at UAF, identified agricultural input policy options affecting food security in the Punjab province of Pakistan. He collected data on agricultural marketing in Punjab and drafted a list of proposed policy recommendations, which he then shared with Dr. Travis Lybbert, a Professor in ARE.

Dr. Ghafoor’s two-year research project examines whether agricultural input marketing polices were successful in improving farm productivity and food security. By analyzing the current role of private sector stakeholders and the success of rural development interventions, Dr. Ghafoor is evaluating the physical, economic, and social aspects of food security issues in Pakistan. Enhancing Pakistan’s agricultural productivity through sustainable means will require questioning common assumptions and current practices. Dr. Ghafoor’s work with Dr. Lybbert yielded valuable insights and suggestions for further analysis, including continued emphasis on certifying quality seed for Pakistani farmers.

“If we use improved inputs, it will give you increased yields. But the farmers show concern about government policies on seed, as well as higher prices for certified seed,” said Dr. Ghafoor. “When we talked with farmers about the major problems they are facing, over twenty percent said that current research and development in Pakistan is not addressing non-resistant seed cultivars. This is a major concern.” Other inputs examined were fertilizer use and access to finance and credit.

In summarizing his exchange visit, Dr. Ghafoor emphasized that policies in Pakistan should focus broadly on nutritional security, rather than simply crop productivity. He also extolled his experience with Dr. Lybbert and the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. “This is an entry into a new collaborative relationship,” stated Dr. Ghafoor during his exit presentation. “I have found new passion for my work.”

The U.S.-Pakistan Center for Advanced Studies (USPCAS) is educating and training the next generation of scientists, engineers, and policy makers through innovative academic programs crucial for Pakistan’s development in agriculture and food security. Through applied research, academia-industry collaboration, and policy formation, USPCAS enhances Pakistan’s economic growth and prosperity. USPCAS was made possible by support from the American people through United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

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Profile written by Levi McGarry.