Hike in inflation and transportation fares adding to food insecurity

KARACHI: High inflation, skyrocketing transportation fares, climate change and bad governance are causing food insecurity in Pakistan, according to a latest study.

Pakistan is an agriculture country, where farmers grow enough food but due to bad governance, those people who grow food are food insecure. Uncontrolled high inflation and transportation rates have caused an alarming rise in food items’ prices, while climate change has been hitting Pakistan, causing droughts and floods. The floods had destroyed crops standing on lacks of acres within last decade in Pakistan while droughts have reduced crop productions in rain irrigated lands.

FATA has the highest percentage of food insecure population 67.7 percent followed by Balochistan 61.2 percent and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 56.2 percent. The lowest percentage of food insecure population 23.6 percent is in Islamabad.

Pakistan has two principle crops seasons, namely Kharif, the sowing season which begins in April-June and is harvested during October-December; while Rabi begins in October-December and is harvested in April-May. Rice sugarcane, cotton, maize, mung, mash, bajra and jowar are Kharif season crops while wheat, gram, lentil masoor, tobacco, rapeseed, barley and mustard are Rabi crops. Major crops are wheat, rice, cotton and sugarcane. The government needs to reduce transportation, fertilizer, pesticide costs and inflation rate so as to provide relief to food insecure people.

Food security is described as the availability of food and one’s access to it. A household is considered food secure when its occupants do not live in hunger or fear of starvation. Over the past 20 years there has been little change in the prevalence of malnutrition in the population despite more food availability and an overall increase in caloric intake per capita.

There is need to devise policies to tackle climate change affecting agriculture sector of Pakistan. Climate change is an area that has become increasingly important in recent years and raises issues of global justice and equity. Whereas the richer industrialized countries are primarily responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, it is the poorer developing countries who would most heavily bear the costs of climate change.

It is major concern for Pakistan because of its large population and economic dependence on primary natural resources. Pakistan’s agrarian economy is heavily dependent on river water provided by melting glaciers Pakistani cities are facing problems of urban congestion, deteriorating air and water quality and waste management while the rural areas are witnessing rapid deforestation, biodiversity and habitat loss, crop failure, desertification and land degradation.

In this regard, the National Climate Change Policy 2011 provides a framework for addressing the issues that Pakistan faces or will face in future due to the changing climate. The policy provides a comprehensive framework for the development of an action plan for national efforts on adaptation and mitigation. The goal of the policy is to ensure that climate change is mainstreamed in the economically and socially vulnerable sectors of the economy and to steer Pakistan towards climate resilient development.

In Pakistan, large family size is forced to expense 46 percent of the family income on food. The world’s food production system agriculture, marine fisheries, inland fisheries – is underlain by an ecological foundation and we are undermining this foundation through land degradation, competition for land, overfishing, pollution, and in many other ways. By doing so we are threatening the long-term capability of the system to provide food.

Agricultural growth is particularly effective in reducing hunger and malnutrition. Most of the extreme poor depend on agriculture and related activities for a significant part of their livelihoods. Agricultural growth involving smallholders, especially women, will be most effective in reducing extreme poverty and hunger when it increases returns to labour and generates employment for the poor.

The agriculture sector continues to be an essential component of Pakistan’s economy. It currently contributes 21 percent to GDP. Agriculture generates productive employment opportunities for 45 percent of the country’s labour force and 60 percent of the rural population depends upon this sector for its livelihood. It has a vital role in ensuring food security, generating overall economic growth, reducing poverty and the transforming towards industrialization.

In order for economic growth to enhance the nutrition of the neediest, the poor must participate in the growth process and its benefits: i Growth needs to involve and reach the poor; ii the poor need to use the additional income for improving the quantity and quality of their diets and for improved health services; and iii governments need to use additional public resources for public goods and services to benefit the poor and hungry.

In Pakistan food security is linked to agriculture which is the mainstay of the Pakistan economy as it provides employment to 45 percent population and provides input for agrobased industry. Agriculture sector recorded a growth of 3.1 percent against 2.4 percent last year. Agriculture Sector is a key sector of the economy and accounts for 21 percent of GDP. The agriculture has lost significant growth momentum as its growth slowed down to 2.7 percent in the decade of 2000s as against 4.4 percent in 1990s and 5.4 percent in the 1980s.