The Pakistani government announced this week its forecast of a recovery in the agricultural sector, which is expected to grow by four per cent up from 2.5 per cent last year.

But by no means is it certain that this recovery will be sustained in the coming years, as the south Asian country lags behind on a number of vital reforms, which afflict the long-term growth of this sector.

Agriculture remains central to the prospects surrounding the Pakistani economy. Almost a quarter of Pakistan's annual gross domestic product is driven by agricultural incomes, while almost half the country's workforce directly or indirectly benefits from farm incomes.

The agricultural sector remains central to industry as well, since the country's largest industry is textiles based on domestically-produced cotton.

The fortunes now expected to surround this year's lift in farm incomes, come mainly from higher than expected rainfall in the past six months which has improved overall prospects for growth.

This week, the Pakistani minister for agriculture and livestock, Sikandar Hayat Khan Bosan, claimed the government was stepping up investments in areas such as increased capacity for grain storage and production of certified seeds as well as fodder, in order to give further impetus to agriculture. But long-term followers of Pakistani agriculture remember other policymakers in the past having made similar claims though without success in future.

The challenge for Pakistan's agricultural sector hinges upon three main factors.

First, the country's long-term failure in reforming its energy supply sector, most notably the electricity transmission network, has come to haunt the agricultural sector in a significant way. Farmers need electricity in order to lift subsoil water. But the spiralling costs of electricity have often made it virtually impossible for farmers to afford escalating bills.

Pakistan's largest power transmission company which provides electricity to almost 90 per cent of the population remains surrounded by continuing issues.

The state-owned Water And Power Development Authority (Wapda) continues to be run with the reputation of being saddled with widespread corruption especially through its lower echelons, and considerable inefficiency. Consequently, consumers including farmers have to bear the financial cost of ever rising expenditure on running of this company, though Wapda remains to be reformed. An estimated loss of more than 25 per cent of Wapda's electricity put through its transmission systems is something that consumers including farmers have to live with and pay for.

Second, Pakistani farmers face a major challenge when it comes to dealing with the poorly-run irrigation system.

It was the recent rainfall which helped to lift farm incomes. On the contrary, if Pakistan would have been in the midst of an unusually dry season, its farm incomes would just not have been similarly robust.

Finally, Pakistan's farmers face the difficult matter of dealing with input costs that have risen considerably over time. The failure of successive governments in allowing some affordability when it comes to prices of inputs like fertilisers, pesticides and seeds, only complicates the debate surrounding Pakistan's farm sector.

The latest turnaround in Pakistan's agriculture this year is more the consequence of luck and fortune coming to aid the country's farmers than any set of reforms unleashed by any government including the present day one.

- The writer is a journalist based in Pakistan.