Govt needs to make 48.6% population food secure: survey

KARACHI: Pakistan government direly needs to adopt strategic approach to ensure food security by taking demand, supply and production into account because 48.6% population of the country is without access to sufficient food, according to a survey conducted by PPI.

Food Security means a condition in which all people have access to adequate nutritious and safe food. As the population of the country has grown to high level, the food insecurity has been deepening with each passing day. The availability of natural resources as compared to population need is reducing, causing food insecurity. FATA has 67.7% food insecure population, Balochistan 61.2%, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 56.2%. Food insecurity is also on the rise in rural Sindh and some 63 % of its population (urban and rural) has suffered decline in real wages and is forced to take cheaper food with less nutrient value.

In Pakistan, large family size is forced to expense 46 % of the family income on food while the food expenditures in India are 35% and the United States 7%. Malnutrition is a health problem in Pakistan and plays a substantial role in the country’s elevated child morbidity and mortality.

There is need to bring agriculture reforms in the county by providing lucrative crop subsidies, introducing agriculture farming, ending corporate farming and providing easy loans to farmers. The government also needs to reduce inflation rate, which is the major factor behind food insecurity.

The corporate farming in the country also adds to food insecurity, poverty and inflation. Some Gulf countries have purchased lands in Pakistan, particularly in Sindh and Balochistan as part of corporate farming that would cause water scarcity and deprive local farming community of their rights. It will also cause food insecurity in rural areas, putting the livelihood of poor people at stake. Such kind of land purchasing is land grabbing, so there is dire need to accelerate efforts against such onslaughts. The UAE has purchased 324,000 hectares of farmland in the Punjab and Sindh provinces of Pakistan in June 2008. Investors from Abu Dhabi bought about 16,000 hectares of farmland in Balochistan. Emirates Investment Group and Abraaj Capital are also investing directly in corporate farming. Such kind of purchasing is a land grabbing which will deprive local people of land and cause food insecurity.

Agriculture is central to economic growth and development in Pakistan. Being the dominant sector it contributes 21.4 percent to GDP, employs 45 percent of the country’s labour force and contributes in the growth of other sectors of the economy. The healthy expansion in agriculture stimulates domestic demand for industrial goods and other services and supplying raw material to agro-based industry notably cotton textile industry which is the largest subsector of manufacturing sector.

The government under paradigm of the new growth strategy envisioned to enhance growth in agriculture sector by facilitating agriculture productivity sustainable environment, increasing competitiveness in agriculture marketing and trade by providing friendly climate for more investment in the sector. However, draft tenth 5 years plan also envisages improving the productivity, profitability competitiveness and environmental sustainability of agriculture.

Balochistan has the highest number of districts with worst conditions for food security. The 20 districts of Pakistan with worst conditions for food security include 10 districts from Balochistan, 5 from FATA; 3 from KPK; and 1 from Gilgit Baltistan (GB) and Sindh each. The number of districts from Balochistan in this category has doubled since 2003.

Dera Bugti, Musa Khel, Upper Dir, North Waziristan, Kohistan, Muhmmand, Dalbidin, South Waziristan, Orakzai, and Panjgur are the 10 districts with worst conditions for food security in Pakistan. Islamabad Capital Territory is the most food secure district of Pakistan. Among the top twenty districts with best conditions for food security, besides Islamabad, are 14 districts in Punjab and 5districts in Sindh.