FOOD SECURITY IN PAKISTAN

S.KAMAL HAYDER KAZMI,
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)
Research Analyst
, PAGE
Apr
5 - 11, 2010

Pakistan is one of those countries where the food situation in recent years has not been very encouraging. Of late, the demand for food, especially wheat, which is the main staple, has started to exceed its supply. Even when the supply situation was better, there were problems with the distribution of food among different segments of the society, which led to widespread under-nourishment of masses.

In Pakistan out of 56 million people living in urban areas about 21 million are food insecure (calorie consumption). The problem is particularly severe in Balochistan where 20 out of 25 districts with urban population are highly food insecure. In Sindh 6 out of 17 districts and in NWFP 5 out of 20 districts are food insecure. Punjab province is comparatively better off than rest of the country.

For the rural areas of Pakistan, 80 out of 120 districts are food insecure. Of them 38 is extremely food insecure. Out of this food insecure 22 are in Balochistan, 21 in NWFP, 7 in FATA, 5 in Northern Areas, 10 in Punjab, and 11 in Sindh.

PRICES

Food prices have declined from the 2008 peak, but remain higher than the pre-food crisis levels. Wheat flour prices in Karachi was 31.5 rupee/kg in Dec 2009, 8.2 per cent below Oct 2008, but still 51.3 per cent higher compared to that in Dec 2007. Rice prices in Karachi were 33.2 rupee/kg in Dec 2009, 39 per cent below June 2008, but 46 per cent higher than that of Dec 2007. Both wheat flour and rice prices have been almost unchanged in the last months. In Jan, in Karachi market, wheat prices (304.23 USD/ Ton) were 42 per cent higher than the international prices of US Wheat No. 2 Hard Red Winter, fob Gulf (213.5 USD/Ton). In contrast, rice prices (388.36 USD/Ton) were 9 per cent lower than the international prices of White Broken Rice Thai A1 Super, fob Bangkok (426.25 USD/Ton).

CONSUMER PRICE INDEX

GROUPS INDICES CHANGE FEBRUARY, 2010 OVER IN % POINTS (IMPACT)
. FEB-10 JAN-10 FEB-09 JAN-10 (%) FEB-09 (%) JAN-10 FEB-09
Food & beverages 243.17 242.91 211.58 0.11 14.93 0.04 6.18
Non-perishable food items 248.13 245.98 215.32 0.87 15.24 0.81 5.52
Perishable food items 209.25 221.88 185.97 -5.70 12.52 -0.77 0.66

FOOD BALANCE SHEET

Total paddy output of 2009 harvest was estimated at 9.56 million tonnes, 8.3 per cent below the previous year, but 12 per cent above the previous five years average. In 2009/10, 2.6 million tones of rice are expected to be exported. Wheat crop was estimated at 24 million tonnes, 3 million tonnes more than the previous year. Total net cereal exports in 2009/10 are forecasted at some 3.1 million tonnes, compared to 1.8 million tonnes in the previous year.

FOOD SECURITY SITUATION

Intensified insecurity has triggered significant displacement. Over 2 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country need food assistance. In the short-term GIEWS estimates severe localized food insecurity. WFP reports a situation of moderately high hunger, while IFPRI describes the problem of food insecurity as alarming.

GOVERNMENT POLICIES

To counter rising food prices, in Oct 2009, the Lahore High Court ordered traders to ensure a retail price of PKR 40/kg, 27 per cent lower than the peak of the last month. The government has removed a 35 per cent export duty on wheat products, but it has imposed the ban again on rice export until the end of the year (31 Dec 2009) to keep the rising domestic rice price under control.

CORE INFLATION OF CPI DURING 2009-10 (%)

MONTHS TRIMMED CORE INFLATION NON-FOOD & NON ENERGY CORE INFLATION
Oct 10.6 11.0
Nov 10.5 10.6
Dec 10.4 10.7
Jan 12.7 10.3
Feb 12.4 10.1

INTERNATIONAL WHEAT PRICES

The price of US wheat (No.2 Hard Red Winter, fob Gulf) averaged USD 246 per ton in March, 2 per cent higher than in February 2009, and close to the rate of previous two months. The USA wheat price was 49 per cent lower, compared to the same month last year.

Average wholesale wheat price in the local Pakistani market was recorded as Rs.24/Kg, during March 2009, suggesting an increase of 2 per cent, compared to the previous month. Comparable figure for the wholesale wheat in Delhi (India) was Rs.19/Kg, which was almost the same as over last three months. The wholesale wheat prices in India thus remained 20 per cent lower than Pakistan.

RURAL AREAS

In Pakistan, the household food poverty is higher for rural areas. The rural areas need focus as they are much behind urban areas in a number of areas like infrastructure, access to health services and education, gender and caste discrimination, purchasing capacity and availability of public utilities like electrification, and safe-drinking water and landlessness.

Achieving food security at national level does not necessarily guarantee food security at provincial, district or household level. There exists disparity among provinces, districts, and households. Even if a household is food secure it does not imply each member of the household is food secure because of unequal food distribution within households. The geographical, environmental, and medical factors of food security are important for their respective fields but social factors are significant for policymaking and use by development practitioners.

CONCLUSION

In Pakistan, devolution process is now mature enough to implement the policies. The district governments can intervene to enhance the food security in the districts. Therefore, the government should focus on food security analysis at district level. Food security is divided into three components i.e. food availability, accessibility, and absorption of food. Therefore, the government should focus on these components.