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Food insecurity: a real threat to Pakistan

Our actions are our future
So called agriculture country in food crisis, why?

Pakistan is essentially an agricultural country given the percentage of agricultural products it exports and the people employed in this sector. Pakistan has rich and vast natural resource base, covering various ecological and climatic zones. About 27 percent of Pakistan’s total land area is under cultivation. Agriculture accounts 21 percent of GDP and employs 41 percent of labor force and a vital sector of Pakistan’s economy. The agriculture sector directly supports the three-quarters of country’s population, employs half the labor force, and contributes a large share of foreign exchange earnings. The irrigation system in Pakistan is considered to be the world largest irrigation system. In spite of all these available resources we are still facing food shortage in Pakistan. Food is a basic requirement of human being and without it people unable to survive. In all over the world, problem of food shortage is increases day by day. Different factors are involved in food shortage.

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While environmental pollution and degradation present additional challenges for Pakistan to improve its future food security. Major environment issues include water pollution from raw sewage, industrial waste, and agricultural runoff, rising deforestation, soil erosion and desertification.

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The agriculture GDP growth rate in Pakistan was only 1.5 percent in 2007, significantly lower than the population growth rate (Pakistan National Income Statistics 2008). In 1989-90 to 2004-05 average growth rate was 2.3 percent (Pakistan National Income Statistics 2007). On the other hand it is estimated that average GDP growth rates in fast growing middle-income countries average 4-6 countries.

According to Pakistan Economic Survey 2005-06; GDP of cotton is 10 percent and of rice is 6 percent. One of the basic reasons of food crises in Pakistan is soaring prices due to gap in demand and supply of edibles and the pressure resulting from population increase has also worsened the environmental and resource problems. Between the 1970s and the 1980s, Pakistan experienced very high population growth (over 3.0 percent per annum). In the early 1990s, the growth rate dropped below 3.0% but was still above 2.5 percent.

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In addition, there has been a shortfall of investment in agriculture infrastructure and research and development (R&D), leading to limited innovation in the agricultural sector. Antiquated farming methods and the inefficient use of resources have contributed to poor productivity.

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The slow or absence of improvements in agricultural productivity is detrimental to the rural population, especially the rural poor. Two-thirds of the country’s population and 80% of the poor live in rural areas. The lack of development in agricultural infrastructure and advancement in farming methods has made agricultural production difficult and inefficient, aggravating poverty in rural areas.

 

Given these facts, it is alarming to note that the problems faced by the agriculture sector are one of the least addressed issues of the Pakistani economy. The experts said that the country may face severe famine (food scarcity) mainly due to reduction in irrigated land. They listed the major causes behind this deteriorating situation such as:

  • Water shortage
  • Flooding
  • Old agriculture practices
  • Lack of facilities for farmers
  • Government in just policies
  • CPEC challenges (how we fulfill the needs of additional labor coming from abroad)

So, in Pakistan, where poor governance and corruption appear to have become a usual phenomenon; an insufficiency of food inevitably occurs. The failure on part of the government to introduce result-oriented and effective tax policies to redistribute nation’s wealth from rich to poor have spread hunger and malnourishment among masses. As budgeted figures unveiled, Tax-to-GDP ratio in the year 2017-18 is 13.2% which is quite abysmal. Unsurprisingly, an absence of robust direct taxation which lies directly on income in Pakistan has made wealthier individuals ‘untouchable agents’. Whereas, the country’s fiscal health heavily relies on indirect taxes the incidence, which is on goods and services is regressive in nature and impacts the poor masses by a wider degree. Thus, the capacity of a susceptible segment of a population to buy food for survival has diminished over time and poverty has accelerated but healthy economic growth and social stability are factors that are a prerequisite for food sufficiency in the country so government have to take the following actions steps to overcome the issues related to food:

  • The government can discourage urbanization which eats up fertile land and reduces area for food production.
  • Efforts are needed to control pollution which contribute negatively towards climate change and also damage food production.
  • Sound social safety net programs should be introduced and expanded so that they can cover all the areas of the country.
  • Long-term structural reforms and improvement in governance demands urgent attention of the state.
  • Economic policies must be launched in order to spread prosperity and increase per capita income.

Because, “our Actions are Our Future”.

Written by: Ms: Urooj Aijaz (Faculty; Dept of H&SS Bahria University Karachi Campus)

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