Dangers of food crisis in Pakistan
September 23, 2011
Providing food for approximately 6 billion global populations and saving the starving nations from draughts and crushing famine is fast becoming a serious challenge to comprehend and tackle. All this in face of rapidly decreasing agro produce and increase in their prices. In its report the subordinate UN institution dealing with global food, WFP (World Food Program) has announced that basic food prices had indicated an increase since beginning of 2011 and could remain at top for months. The organization has warned that under developed countries can be hard hit by the dilemma, and the situation could only be rectified by joint efforts of public/private sector to increase agro production, by boosting investments, while governments would have to make long range policies to evolve a successful, robust agro sector.
Analysts compare the grim situation of 2011 to that of 2008 food crisis linked to oil crisis, besides such aspects as hoardings, increase in world population, inclement climatic changes, increase in use of meat and produce, use of bio fuel using agro crops as alternate to fuel crisis. However reasons like hoardings and predictions have been discounted in favor of climatic changes damaging crops, increase in food demand, especially in fast emerging economies and raising interest rates.
According to World Bank’s poverty reduction and economic management network, there was a prevalent trend of reduction in global food prices, during the first six months of 2010. Only few countries displayed a stable food price index. Starting the middle of June to Aug 2010, the prices surged, raising global wheat prices by 56%, alongwith similar observations for maize and rice. During Dec 2010 Pakistan has been declared as being among the 11 such countries, by head of WFP (World food Program) , where masses are quite pressurized by possible scarcity of food and astronomical increase in commodities’ prices, while they constantly struggle to earn two-meals a day, and required intense international support to overcome these crisis. The devastating floods of 2010 have deteriorated the food situation further, as approximately 24,00,000 acres of standing crops were destroyed. This included 8,72, 900 acres of partially or fully damaged rice crops. During 2010 phuddi crops were estimated at 6.3 million tons, 38% less than previous year’s crops. A trend of lesser prices for wheat and flour prices was also observed for May-Aug 2010, but reverted to an increase during past few months.
Pakistan also suffered due to intermittent monsoon rains, and flooding during 2011, severely damaging Kharif crops and vegetables, bringing in a colossal loss of about Rs.256 billion, while destruction of cotton crops on 1.27 million acres also ushered in a loss of Rs.240 million. One million tons worth of paddy crops also vanished, while destruction of 25% of sugarcane also occurred; causing a loss of Rs. 21 billion for efforts of hapless settlers, who are the growers. This would directly affect prices / availability of sugar in immediate times to come. It would also have to be imported. Fodder Crops for livestock also suffered due destruction, and has been estimated at Rs.70 billion, while fruit orchards also suffered the worst; to tune of Rs. 8 billion. Rains severely damaged infrastructure of such districts of Sindh, as Badin, Thattha, Tando Muhammad Khan, Tando Allhayar, Mirpur Khas, Matthi, Nowshera Feroze, Khairpur, Ghothki, Benazirabad, Dadu, Qambar Shahdadkot, Kashmore, Hydrabad, and others, where seeded crops have suffered.
Many districts have suffered rainfall as deep as 300mm, which has severely damaged the irrigation system and roads infrastructure, while 900,000 acres of paddy crops, 200,000 acres of cotton, and 1,50,000 acres of sugarcane was destroyed in Thattha and Badin. Crops of onions and tomatoes on 80,000 acres of land in these two districts were also destroyed. Besides affecting farmers, this could very well inflate the prices of vegetables and fruits further up.
Better crops in Pakistan since past year have straightened out the situation somehow, but there are yet areas where flood after effects of flood disaster are quite prevalent., while close to 18 millions humans have also suffered. Pakistan has been a victim of countless crisis, which include, terrorism, floods and rains, energy crisis, sugar and wheat crisis and others. There seems to be no way out of these crises, as skyrocketing tariffs in electricity and gas have increased productivity costs, bringing Pakistani industry on the very brink of disaster. However agro sector is one bright ray of hope, which remains unaffected from electricity and gas crisis as both have little part to play here. Pakistan can still tune up its food needs on strong solid grounds with such conducive steps like using latest irrigation trends, excellent seedlings and fertilizers, easy agro loans by commercial banks, better management policies and planning by government could still turn tables in favor of Pakistan. It can also redeem excellent export prospects on strong sold basis.