Mar 1 - 7, 2010

United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines food security as "food security exists when all people, at all times have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life."

Amongst a number of economic approaches to improve food security, the following three modern day approaches are more relevant

Westernized view: This approach advocates maximization of profits for the farmers to enable them to reinvest in the agro business with a view to expansion and modernization. The successful expansion and modernization will enhance the risk taking capacity of the farmer and prepare him to make further reinvestments. Since he knows well what is good for his business, the farmer should be left alone to choose from the various production tools and techniques available to him. This purely "corporate style" farming is advocated by the majority of western countries and international agencies.

Food justice: This view assumes that the world agriculture produces and has future potential to produce quantities of food that can feed the entire world population irrespective of any economic constraints or social biases and inequalities. It further assumes that food is a basic human right and that food crises are created not by the food shortage but by the exploitative attitudes. This idealistic approach is chiefly advocated by the world NGOs.

Food sovereignty: This approach underlines the role of multinationals that use their financial and political clout to acquire the really productive agro assets of the developing nations, leaving the unimportant and marginal assets for the majority of subsistence farmers who find it difficult to improve and expand their business and get out of the hunger and poverty trap. It also holds food as basic human right and advocates that every nation should have food sovereignty.

None of the three approaches fits in Pakistan's case. Westernized view does not apply as majority of farm community in the country comprises either small size holders or sharecroppers. The minority of large size holders earns huge profits but never cares to reinvest them in agro business expansion and modernization projects. The figures of the table point towards some expansionary efforts in FY-09, but the incremental production is more likely to be shifted to international markets to fetch higher profits.

Food justice theory does not apply as Pakistan's entire agriculture sector is dominated by feudal lords and exploitative forces. We are quite capable of attaining food sovereignty but for the reasons listed above, the goal appears unattainable, at least in the near future. The role of multinationals in controlling the prices, quality and distribution of farm inputs hardly needs to be defined. The farmland selling to the foreigners is yet another step away from the food sovereignty goal.


2000-01 Crop area 8181 2377 390 354 944 113 12359
Production 19024 4803 199 219 1643 99 25987
2001-02 Crop area 8058 2114 417 358 942 111 12000
Production 18226 3882 216 222 1664 100 24311
2002-03 Crop area 8034 2225 349 338 935 108 11989
Production 19183 4478 189 202 1737 100 25889
2003-04 Crop area 8216 2461 539 392 947 102 12657
Production 19500 4848 274 238 1897 98 26855
2004-05 Crop area 8358 2519 343 308 982 93 12603
Production 21612 5025 193 186 2797 92 29905
2005-06 Crop area 8448 2621 441 254 1042 90 12896
Production 21277 5547 221 153 3110 88 30396
2006-07 Crop area 8578 2581 504 292 1017 94 13066
Production 23295 5438 238 180 3088 04 32337
2007-08 Crop area 8550 2515 531 281 1052 91 13020
Production 20959 5563 305 170 3605 87 31198
2008-09 Crop area 9062 2963 470 263 1118 86 13962
Production 23421 6952 296 165 4036 83 34953

In recent past, the entire world was in the grip of serious food crisis, but the infirmities and inadequacies of the modern days' financial system came to the rescue of mankind. With all the rage and fury of a tsunami, the global financial meltdown swept away a number of global financial giants. The sovereign and hedge funds were no exception. The overheated oil and commodity markets tumbled down. The developing economies got a respite as far as food situation was concerned. Global food prices came down to manageable limits. This served as a lesson to the developed economies which had a chance to size-up the devastating force of a mega food crisis.

It was disclosed in the recently held world summit on food security in Rome in November 2009 that the number of people without enough daily food is above 800 million. More than 60 percent of these people live in Asia and 25 percent in Africa. The incidence of hunger is however greater in Africa (33 percent) than in Asia (16 percent).

As stated earlier, Pakistan has the potential to attain food sovereignty, but systemic flaws make this target illusive. Given the indifference of the ruling elites, the food justice milestone is inapproachable. But still there is something to cheer about.

On the basis of the figures shown in the table, Pakistan's current per capita food grain availability per day is 580 grams. Even after making allowance for rice export (up to 5 million tons), the availability remains 500 grams. This ratio in the previous year was around 470 grams. The improving food availability is like a light at the end of the tunnel. In India, this ratio is on a continuous decline - 445 grams in 2006, 443 grams in 2007 and 436 grams in 2008.