AGRARIAN SOCIETY AND HIGH RISE OF FOOD PRICES

FAILURE OF GOVERNMENT TO CURB THE SMUGGLING OF WHEAT, SUGAR, PULSES

DR. S.M.ALAM
Mar 10 - 16, 2008

In agriculture, Pakistan possesses a sound and meaningful position in the world's agricultural community. It has 9th place in wheat, 4th place in rice, 4th in cotton. 4th in mango, 12th in sugarcane, 10th in citrus, 5th in dates, 4th in milk and 6th in livestock production in the world. There are only shortages of edible oil, tea and crude oil for fuel purpose and some other things.

Food is a produce of agricultural based crops and also its subsidiaries are fishery and livestock. Agriculture is a system of growing crops, vegetables, edible oil crops, fruits on fertile agricultural lands. We need sufficient water to grow any crop on a suitable land. For agricultural crop productivity in the country, the mighty Indus river which emerges from a lake in Tibet and runs to the plain lands of Pakistan is a lifeblood for agriculture in the country. The Indus irrigation system network constructed in 1849 in the country is very helpful and powerful resource of providing water for growing varieties of crops. Similar to river Nile in Egypt, the river Indus in Pakistan is a real mother for agricultural crops productivity in the country.

MAJOR AND MINOR CROPS

Agriculture sector being the dominant sector of Pakistan's economy contributes 23 percent of the GDP and employs over 42 percent of the total work force, serves as a major supplier of raw materials to the industry as well as the market for the industrial products and also contributes substantially to Pakistan's export earnings. This is mainly due to the presence of vast agricultural resources, which are mainly due to country's geographical location and landscape where Pakistan is blessed with fertile land and varied weather. In addition to this, the country has well established irrigated system with the result that all types of agricultural produce are grown depending upon the climate and soil quality conditions.

Pakistan grows both major and minor crops, vegetables and spices, fruits, edible oils, livestock, milk, poultry, fisheries etc. The major and minor food crops are wheat, rice, maize, jawar, bajra, barley; cash crops are sugarcane, cotton, sugarbeet and guarseed; pulses are gram, mung, masoor, matter; and edible oilseeds are sesamum, groundnut, soybean, sunflower, canola, safflower, and cotton seed. The wheat, rice, cotton and sugarcane account for 92 percent of value added in vital major crops. For the year 2005-06 the annual production of food crops (in 000 tons) were 30395, cash crops 47185, pulses 685 and edible oilseeds 505.

Within agriculture, fruits, vegetables and floriculture have important impact on agricultural economy. The yearly productions of fruits, vegetables and spices are about 12 million tons. The country produces 30 different types of fruits and some of them are citrus, mango, dates, apples, banana, apricot, almonds, grapes, guava, peach, pears, plums and pomegranate.

The demand of processed food is high in the export markets such as graded fresh fruit, citrus juice, mango pulp, pickles, ketchups, sauces, canned products, tomato paste etc. The edible oil production (000 tons) in the country is 0.349 mtons (27%). The import amount of the edible oil is 2,201 mtons (about 73%). Pakistan spends a huge amount on oil import bill. The production of vegetables (000 tons) is: tomato (426), potato (2025), onion (1,817), garlic (56), chilies (91), turmeric (38), gingers (41). The production of all types of vegetables comes to 3048.

LIVESTOCK AND FISHERIES

Livestock is an important sector of agriculture in Pakistan which accounts for 46 percent of the agricultural value added and about 11 percent of the GDP. The livestock population are of buffalo, cattle, goat, sheep, poultry, camels, asses, horses and mules. In a similar manner the livestock products are of milk, beef, mutton and fat. The dairy products are milk, butter, yogurt, cheese, power milk, ice cream. Poultry farming is an agro-based industry. The demand for white meat is increasing with the change in eating habit, where as the livestock population is decreasing and the gap between the demand and supply of the meat is expected to be met through poultry meat. The poultry production is chicken meat and eggs. The livestock and poultry products are fresh beef, mutton, poultry meat.

Fishery plays an important role in the economy and is considered to an important source of livelihood for the people of Pakistan. The production (000 tons) of Inland (170) and Marine fish were (404). The seafood and fishery products are chilled or frozen fish, fish meat and exported to European countries. Important food fish species are tuna, sailfish, marlins, groupers, catfish etc. Shrimp has a great scope in the fish industry.

A food industry is an establishment that serves prepared food and beverages to the consumers. The food processing units have great potential in food preparation and there are more than 200 food processing units producing confectionary and biscuits, jams, jellies, and squashes, snacks, and potato chips, poultry and dairy products, beverages, cereal products, dehydrated fruits and vegetables, meat and meat products for local consumption and exports. Besides having a thriving local industry, Pakistan is among 10 most important markets for global consumer brand leaders. Fermented fruits and vegetables are traditionally consumed in Pakistan and neighboring countries. Raw mangoes, ripe limes, olives, turnips, carrots, onions, cauliflower, reddish, pepper, and other are pickled with the help of mainly lactic acid bacteria.

We have recognized from the above discussion that Pakistan is at a vantage position in the production of agricultural crops and allied eatable items. But all these happiness is marred due to rise in the cost prices of edible items. Due to continuous increase in burgeoning population the demand for consumption goods keeps on moving higher thus exhausting the existing production capabilities of the economy. Due to shortage of supply, the effect goes on the price till the time the authorities decide to import the required goods. Such imports ultimately increase inflation. The surging food prices is a major challenge for the country's economic managers and the people have lost hope for any relief while officials continue to paint a rosy picture about the economy.

Food prices rose by 18.25 percent in January 2008 from a year ago and 3.04 percent a month ago, touching new heights. Analysts say the full year inflation would be in the range of 9-10 percent by the end of June 2008 as against the government projected target of 6.5 percent. Among the food items, non-perishable products witnessed 21.67 percent increase in January 2008. It is not the seasonal food items but products like wheat, flour, rice, edible oil, pulses, sugar that witnessed significant increases.

Analysts say this surge in food prices can impose high cost on the economy while disproportionately hurting the poor and fixed income groups. It can undermine macro-economic stability and impact adversely on investments costs. The government has failed to curb the smuggling of wheat, sugar, pulses to neighboring countries and to crack down on commodity hoarders, believed to have right connections. Edible oil prices have shot up by as much as 100 percent in a year. Rice prices have also gone up. The government should take serious measure to control the upset in the increase of food prices.