IMPACT OF FLOODS ON AGRICULTURE
S.KAMAL HAYDER KAZMI,
Research Analyst, PAGE
Sep 13 - 26, 2010
Pakistan is almost on the brink of collapse as it is facing the militancy on one side and a natural calamity on the other side. The floods that have hit the country have virtually damaged the whole country's agriculture, food and various crops such as wheat, cotton, sugarcane, and guar seed.
As per the world's ranking, Pakistan stands 4th in cotton, 4th in sugarcane, 10th in wheat, and 2nd in guar seed.
These devastating floods have also adversely affected the food supply chains. Nearly 17 million acres of cultivated cropland has been lost to floods while the loss of livestock would also be in millions. The loss of crops from floods alone can cause huge spikes in the price of necessary food items because of uncertainty in the supply of grains, livestock, etc. At the same time, almost 75 per cent of those affected by floods are the ones who relied on agriculture for sustenance. Even after the flood waters recede, it will take months, if not more, to resettle the internally displaced farm workers on the land they once tilled, thus causing further delays in domestic food production.
Since July 2001, prices have more than doubled in Pakistan, as is evidenced by 128 per cent increase in prices in July 2010. Compounding the devastating impact of floods were two additional factors; Ramazan, which is always accompanied with unexplained inflation and another factor is the global wheat shortage that has caused the price of wheat to increase by 90 per cent since June 2010.
AGRICULTURE GROWTH (%)
AGRI MAJOR CROPS MINOR CROPS LIVESTOCK FISHERY FORESTRY 2007-08 1.0 -6.4 10.9 4.2 9.2 -13.0 2008-09 4.0 7.3 -1.7 3.5 2.3 -3.0 2009-10 2.0 -0.2 -1.2 4.1 1.4 2.2
Already, markets in urban centers are reporting a 100 to 200 per cent increase in the prices of food items over the pre-flood levels. Wheat is a major crop for the Pakistanis, who hold it over the season in poorly-designed or ancient silos, under tarpaulins or even stored in their homes. According to initial estimates, 600,000 tonnes of wheat stocks have been ruined in the flood. Along with wheat and fodder, other crops lost are cotton, sugarcane, summer pulses, rice, and tobacco. Onions are sold at Rs80 per kg and tomatoes at average Rs120 per kg even in Islamabad, which was spared by the floodwaters.
In the country, Basmati rice is largest agricultural export and provider of foreign currency, and after last year's bumper crop, the flood is simply devastating. Last year, Pakistan had a bumper crop of 6.7 tonnes of milled rice, and the country exported about 5.7 million tonnes.
In the worst flood, around 200,000 cows, sheep, buffalo, goats and donkeys have already been confirmed as dead or missing but that number could run into the millions. For many Pakistanis their wealth is in their livestock, with most families having little more than a dairy cow, a goat and a few chickens per household. It is obvious when it is difficult to get foods to humans who are literally clinging to trees to save their lives and on minuscule tracts of dry land, it is impossible to get fodder to livestock.
PAKISTAN'S ECONOMIC DISASTERS
DISASTER DATE COST IN DOLLAR Flood 2010 More than 15 billion Earthquake 2005 5,200,000 Storm 2007 1,620,000 Flood 1992 1,000,000 Flood 2007 327,118 Drought 1999 247,000 Flood 2001 246,000 Flood 1994 92,000 Flood 2005 30,000 Storm 1999 10,936 Earthquake 1991 10,000
The massive inundation has made grazing fodder almost non-existent so in short that the livestock will rapidly die and will require veterinary assistance as well as food to prevent the rapid spread of disease.
Agriculture and Livestock department reveals that 44,896 tonnes of wheat in Punjab and 80,823 tonnes in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have been totally spoilt in flood. Moreover, in Sindh, some 5,41,696 tonnes of wheat are estimated to have been destroyed, whereas in Balochistan, the overall damage to crops has occurred over an area of 321,651 acres.
The floods in Pakistan have also destroyed the logistics and transportation systems that make it possible to get food to markets. In addition, much of the stored wheat saved for seed or food stocks has rotted because it could not be kept dry. Poor people have very little ability to store food in Pakistan.
Pakistan has suddenly become even more food insecure while being armed with nuclear weapons. The excessive spending on defense over the past four decades to secure its borders has inadvertently left Pakistan food insecure. The challenge for the government is to protect the vulnerable groups of society by stabilising prices of essential items. Medium-to-long term efforts should envisage agricultural reforms so that there can be an increase in supply of essential items through making agricultural land and labor more productive, and having enough quantities of these items to feed the country as well as for export purposes.
After having fulfilled the basic needs of shelter, food, clean drinking water and health supplies, the government should also make available to farmers a free agri-package including seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, small tools and instruments. Moreover, agri-credit for rehabilitation of farm facilities should also be provided for the flood-hit farmers' subsistence.