Agriculture: The Main Pillar of Pakistan Economy

Agriculture is not merely a sector in Pakistan; it is the backbone of the nation economy. Approximately 42.3% of the labour force in Pakistan is engaged in agriculture, making it the largest employer in the country. From the lush green fields of Punjab to the terraced landscapes of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, agriculture supports the livelihoods of countless rural communities, helping to reduce poverty and drive economic growth.

Realizing its importance, planners and policy makers are always keen to have reliable area and production statistics of agricultural crops well in time. Policy makers primarily need accurate and timely statistics for the important crops such as wheat, cotton, rice, sugarcane, maize etc. However, in recent years, due to persistent hikes in the prices of essential commodities like pulses, onions, potatoes, chilies and tomatoes these crops have also gained in economic importance.

The improvement in agriculture production systems will increase farm income, reduce consumer prices and enhance diverse food supplies besides generating an exportable surplus. During the post COVID-19 period, the steep rise in the price of various commodities has further enhanced the importance of this sector, especially for the countries who are net importers of food items. Realizing the importance of agriculture sector, the Government encourage financial inclusion activities in the agriculture sector to adopt new approaches in order to boost the productivity and exports, thus enhancing a rural development-driven economic growth.


• 67.1 million tons of sugarcane (5th largest global producer, behind Brazil, India, China & Thailand)

• 25.0 million tons of wheat (7th largest producer)

• 10.8 million tons of rice (10th largest producer)

• 6.3 million tons of maize (20th largest producer)

• 4.8 million tons of cotton (5th largest producer)

• 4.6 million tonnes of potato (18th largest producer)

• 2.3 million tonnes of mango (including mangosteen & guava) (5th largest global producer, just behind India, China, Thailand & Indonesia)

• 2.1 million tons of onion (6th largest producer)

• 1.6 million tons of orange (12th largest producer)

• 593 thousand tons of tangerine

• 1,601 thousand tons of tomatoes

• 545 thousand tons of apple

• 540 thousand tons of watermelon

• 501 thousand tons of carrot

• 471 thousand tons of date (6th largest global producer)


Pakistan is one of the world largest producers and suppliers of food and crops (according to the various global sources)

• Chickpea (3rd)
• Apricot (6th)
• Cotton (5th)
• Milk (4th)
• Date Palm (5th)
• Sugarcane (5th)
• Onion (7th)
• Kinnow, mandarin oranges, clementine (6th)
• Mango (4th)
• Wheat (7th)
• Rice (11th)

Pakistan ranks 8th globally in farm output, according to the List of countries by GDP sector composition.


According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan, the livestock sector contributes about half of the value added in the agriculture sector, amounting to nearly 11% of Pakistan GDP, which is more than the crop sector.

A leading daily newspaper reported that the national herd consists of 24.2 million cattle, 26.3 million buffaloes, 24.9 million sheep, 56.7 million goats & 0.8 million camels. Additionally, there is a vibrant poultry sector, with more than 530 million birds produced annually. These animals produce 29.472 million tons of milk (making Pakistan the 4th largest global producer of milk), 1.115 million tons of beef, 0.740 million tons of mutton, 0.416 million tons of poultry meat, 8.528 billion eggs, 40.2 thousand tons of wool, 21.5 thousand tons of hair & 51.2 million skins & hides.

The Food and Agriculture Organization reported that in Pakistan, government initiatives are being undertaken to modernize milk collection & to improve milk / milk product storage capacity.

Livestock having share of 61.89 percent in agriculture and 14.04 percent in GDP, recorded a growth of 3.26 percent in 2021-22 compared to 2.38 percent during same period last year. The fishing sector having share of 1.39 percent in agriculture value addition and 0.32 percent in GDP, grew at 0.35 percent compared to growth of 0.73 percent in same period last year. Forestry sector having share of 2.14 percent in agriculture value addition and 0.49 percent in GDP posted a positive growth of 6.13 percent against the negative growth of 0.45 percent last year.


Fishery and fishing industry plays an important role in the national economy. With a coastline of about 1046km, Pakistan has enough fishery resources that remain to be fully developed. It is also a major source of export earnings. Aquaculture is a rapidly developing industry. Punjab Province has demonstrated rapid growth in fish farming. GIFT Tilapia culture has been introduced recently in Pakistan (especially Punjab). 

Fisheries sector reduces pressure on demand for mutton, beef, and poultry. It is also considered to be an important source of livelihood for the coastal inhabitants. Apart from marine fisheries, inland fisheries (based in rivers, lakes, dams, etc.) are also a very important activity throughout the country. Fisheries share in GDP although very little, but it adds substantially to the national income through export earnings.


About only 4% of land in Pakistan is covered with forest. The forests are a major source of food, lumber, paper, fuelwood, latex, medicine as well as utilized for purposes of wildlife conservation and ecotourism. According to the latest findings of National Forest Reference Emissions Level (FREL), the country is maintaining 4.786 million hectare (5.45 percent) area under forest cover.

Within the forest cover area, dry temperate forests hold the largest share (36 percent), followed by sub-tropical broadleaved shrub (19 percent), moist temperate (15 percent), Chir Pine (13 percent), Riverine (4 percent), irrigated plantation (4 percent), thorn (3 percent), mangrove (3 percent) and subalpine forests (2 percent). The inadequate forest cover area due to growing population and dependence on the natural resources coupled with deforestation have rendered the country one of the most vulnerable to climate change effects. As a result, natural resources are under tremendous pressure owing to change of land use and habitat destruction and consumption of fuel wood and timber extraction. Such pressures have rendered most of the forests of poor and medium density in need of drastic restocking on war footing.

Way Forward

The available potential in agriculture sector needs to be exploited to boost economic growth, job creation and encouraging country exports. For this purpose synchronization of programmes, reforming of institutions and encouraging public-private partnership, simplification of laws and investment reforms is the need of the hour. As federal and provincial investment should be based on their mandate/role in agriculture sector and national issues could be co-financed. Effective mechanization stands vital to enhance productivity in this sector.