Food in­se­cu­rity

The Pak Banker - - FRONT PAGE -

Pak­ista­nis ranked 76th on the world food se­cu­rity in­dex. Of­fi­cial sta­tis­tics con­firm that over 60 per­cent of Pak­istan's pop­u­la­tion is food in­se­cure. Food short­age is closely linked to wa­ter scarcity. At the time of in­de­pen­dence, per capita avail­abil­ity of wa­ter was 5000 cu­bic me­tres a year but this ra­tio has now come down to less than 1,000 cu­bic me­tres a year. Ex­perts say that peo­ple liv­ing in the ru­ral ar­eas, es­pe­cially the lower parts of Sindh, are fac­ing star­va­tion, con­tin­u­ous dis­as­ters and are highly food in­se­cure. Hun­dreds of mil­lions of undernourished per­sons in the back­ward hin­ter­land suf­fer from po­lit­i­cal and so­cial ex­clu­sion and their right to food is openly vi­o­lated. They are equally ex­cluded from all ac­cess to those re­sources that would en­able them to lead a dig­ni­fied life. One ex­am­ple is Tharparkar where is food avail­able in ware­houses but the peo­ple are suf­fer­ing from hunger, star­va­tion and mal­nu­tri­tion.

The coun­try's first Na­tional Food Se­cu­rity Pol­icy was re­cently an­nounced in an ef­fort to elim­i­nate hunger and mal­nu­tri­tion and make food ac­ces­si­ble for all, es­pe­cially the poor.The pol­icy en­vis­ages 4% an­nual growth in food pro­duc­tion, in­clud­ing crops, live­stock and fish­eries and will help make the agri­cul­ture sec­tor more pro­duc­tive, com­pet­i­tive and re­silient to cli­mate change. The pol­icy doc­u­ment would pro­vide a mech­a­nism to ad­dress all four com­po­nents of food se­cu­rity which in­cluded food avail­abil­ity, ac­ces­si­bil­ity, util­i­sa­tion and sta­bil­ity.The pol­icy frame­work is aimed at im­prov­ing farm­ers' ac­cess to seeds, fer­tilis­ers, pes­ti­cides and credit flow, and ad­dress­ing land and wa­ter man­age­ment is­sues.As part of the pol­icy, a Na­tional Food Se­cu­rity Coun­cil will be es­tab­lished un­der the chair­man­ship of prime min­is­ter in which all chief min­is­ters and other of­fi­cials will pe­ri­od­i­cally re­view the state of food se­cu­rity and ini­ti­ate nec­es­sary re­me­dial mea­sures.

The new pol­icy has 16 el­e­ments, which in­clude spe­cial pro­grammes for re­duc­ing poverty and hunger, bridg­ing the yield gaps, en­sur­ing farm prof­itabil­ity, aug­ment­ing the ex­ist­ing wa­ter re­source base by pro­mot­ing ef­fi­cient use through al­ter­na­tive en­ergy, de­vel­op­ing hy­brid seeds, pro­vid­ing in­cen­tives for food pro­cess­ing and value ad­di­tion un­der pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship ar­range­ments, de­vel­op­ing ef­fi­cient farm mech­a­ni­sa­tion and pro­cess­ing tech­nolo­gies to re­duce the cost of pro­duc­tion, and en­act­ing food safety reg­u­la­tory laws.The pol­icy also in­cludes the de­vel­op­ment of nine agri­cul­tural cor­ri­dors un­der the China-Pak­istan Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor (CPEC) for agro-based in­dus­tries.The nine zones, which will be set up in col­lab­o­ra­tion with China, will help achieve food sovereignty, ben­e­fit farm­ers and ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties, im­prove yields, con­serve bio­di­ver­sity, and en­sure soil health, cleaner wa­ter and re­silient food sys­tems.

There is an ur­gent need for in­vest­ment in agri­cul­tural in­fra­struc­ture and re­search and de­vel­op­ment work in or­der to im­prove farm pro­duc­tiv­ity and bet­ter cope with nat­u­ral dis­as­ters. A short­fall in in­vest­ment has led to lim­ited in­no­va­tion in the agri­cul­tural sec­tor. An­ti­quated farm­ing meth­ods and in­ef­fi­cient use of re­sources have con­trib­uted to poor pro­duc­tiv­ity. Two-thirds of the coun­try's pop­u­la­tion and 80% of the poor live in ru­ral ar­eas. Lack of de­vel­op­ment in agri­cul­tural in­fra­struc­ture and ad­vance­ment in farm­ing meth­ods has made agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion dif­fi­cult and in­ef­fi­cient, ag­gra­vat­ing poverty in ru­ral ar­eas.

Re­cently, the gov­ern­ment has taken steps taken to re­duce the cost of pro­duc­tion, es­pe­cially for small farm­ers. It has abol­ished 17% gen­eral sales tax (GST) on fer­tilis­ers, im­posed a uni­form 2% tax and re­duced du­ties on pes­ti­cides. GST on trac­tors has been slashed from 17% to 5%. The gov­ern­ment is also work­ing to pro­duce short-du­ra­tion seeds to cope with the im­pact of cli­mate change. The agri­cul­ture sec­tor is be­ing up­graded on sci­en­tific lines so that it could meet con­tem­po­rary chal­lenges and help im­prove fi­nan­cial con­di­tion of the farm­ers. Agri­cul­ture pro­mo­tion mea­sures in­clude sub­sidy on fer­tilis­ers, in­ter­est-free loans, pro­mo­tion of cer­ti­fied seeds and cheap elec­tric­ity for tube-wells. These mea­sures will go a long way to im­prove food se­cu­rity in the coun­try.

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