The world’s financial experts have placed Pakistan on a list of 36 countries that face a serious food crisis, warning that if the situation worsens people may raid storage facilities for food. Like rest of the world Pakistan is also facing food crisis, and it has two sides; one is unavailability of edibles and second is soaring prices due to gap in demand and supply of edibles. According to the website of UN International task force on global food crisis the price of food commodities has risen by 83 per cent over the last 36 months on international markets, and it is estimated that 854 million people are in a state of food insecurity around the world.
World prices of food grains have risen manifold in the last several months due to varied reasons including increased demand in emerging economies, to poor harvests and farming methods, oil prices, massive diversion of food grains for making bio-fuels, provision of land for bio-fuels, global warming, high population growth, changed eating habits, manipulative role of international financial markets with reduced role of national government. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon lead a concerted effort by 27 key UN agencies to tackle the growing crisis caused by a worldwide sharp rise in basic foodstuff prices at a conference in the Swiss capital Bern. In case of Pakistan, the food crisis comes hand in hand with an energy crisis and in uncertain political environment along with the extremist threats. It is expected that food and energy shortages could become worse this summer. Food shortages do not make a companion to long periods of energy outages (load-shedding). This dangerous mix can bring the political plans of political shenanigans to dogs if these basic needs remain unmet. More problem appears to those economies that are not agriculture based and Pakistan is a wheat and rice producing country and shouldn’t have had to face an acute shortage. a very important question arises here how did it get to this stage?
It is believed that Agriculture scientists will have to introduce modern technologies for high yield at low price to enable the government to cope with the persistent crisis of food shortage. Even the UN Secretary general has said that agriculture is need to be improved for coup up current food crisis all over the world. “After a quarter century of relative neglect, agriculture is back on the international agenda, sadly with a vengeance,” Mr. Ban said in an address at the start of the three-day high-level segment of the annual meeting of the Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD). “The onset of the current food crisis has highlighted the fragility of our success in feeding the world’s growing population with the technologies of the first green revolution and subsequent agricultural improvements,” he added.
According to Daily Times an “Economic analyst, Khalid Mahmood underlined the need for increasing agricultural yields though usage of hybrid seeds, better water management, increased role of government for ensuring effective safety and support mechanisms such as making a reservoir of food grain, and also public-private partnerships to overcome the crisis”.
The skyrocketing prices are jeopardizing the purchasing power of financially crumbling consumers. The price of food items such as vegetables, chicken and meat has increased by more than 20 percent just in one month, which has further made the half of the population of country food insecure. It is stated that 50 percent of the population is talking less calories recognized for average human need, 20 percent out of those 50 percent population, bottom line people were the greater suffers and were miserably struggling to meet their basic food needs even by compromising on their non-food expenses. The current crisis would further worsen if the government is failed to come up with an informed policy and decisions, the majority of the people particularly the poor would be the greater sufferer, however their attention is more towards the political issues and people are suffering due to energy and food shortage.
There are several lacunae in domestic policy recognized and role of the previous government primarily for not realizing the strength of the crisis that was coupled with poor decisions making including the management failure in the worse crisis of 2007 when even international oil prices were not so high, unavailability of fresh seeds and finally the export of rice which directly increased the need of wheat. The previous government paid less attention to demand and supply management, rather tried to address the issue properly and developing long term measures; it waged ineffective ad-hoc measures such as subsidies while oil-driven economy of Pakistan is facing serious shortage of energy resulting in increased cost of production and transportation.
The situation of food shortage in Pakistan calls for a multi-sectoral strategy to address this serious issue. it is also important to note that Ministry of Finance alone cannot provide a solution to the worsening problem. Pakistan needs cohesive strategy including the focus on revising the import parity; pricing formula and revised structure of taxes levied on petroleum products, further demand and supply management in energy sector, agriculture, and communication. it is also suggested that the Planning Commission of Pakistan should take lead in formulating proposals in this regard. The culture of accountability of the political leadership which was responsible for current energy deficit and the resultant price hikes; is also needed.
Another important point in this regard is atta smuggling to Afghanistan though NWFP atta dealers saythat the atta was exported to Afghanistan under the trade policy and a regulatory tax of Rs500 is charged on every bag of 100-kg exported to Afghanistan. It is also said that Currently, there is no smuggling on Afghanistan level and whatever is transported to Afghanistan is legal, and is on accordance with an agreement signed between Pakistan and Afghanistan, that is an open lie. Interestingly President George W. Bush has urged Afghan Govt. to gain self food sufficiency to reduce food pressure on Pakistan in SHARM El-SHEIKH Egypt.
Government is taking steps to curb this situation; Minster for Privatization and Investment Syed Naveed Qamar has directed Utility Stores Corporation (USC) to ensure sufficient supply of ‘atta’ and other necessities on its outlets across the country. Syed Naveed Qamar, The minister said that the government was making all-out efforts to provide essential items like ‘atta’, ghee and sugar to the people in sufficient quantity.
Furthermore the government has warned the wheat hoarders to offer their wheat by Monday (May 19) to the public sector procurement agencies; otherwise their stocks will be confiscated.
A detailed briefing on current wheat situation was given to the Minister for Food, Agriculture and Livestock(MINFAL) Mr. Nazar Muhammad Gondal by the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock.