Oct 10 - 16, 20

Agriculture, the mainstay of Pakistan's economy, has taken a hit following the recent floods that caused widespread damage in 21 districts and destroyed livestock and standing crops in Sindh. The losses from recent floods are estimated at Rs216.6 billion, while crops on an estimated 2.1 million acres of land have been damaged including 74 percent of cotton crop, 26 percent rice and 34 percent sugarcane.

Flooding destroyed about 23 cotton growing districts of the Sindh out of which, seven districts produced 80 per cent of the total crop production and about 74 per cent of the total output was damaged in the province.

Floods that also destroyed livestock, the main component of the rural economy and major source of livelihood of thousands of families, could raise the poverty level in rural Sindh and Balochistan where 50 percent of population already live below poverty line.

Local analysts fear that food inflation is likely to go up due to the destruction of cash crops especially sugarcane and vegetables in Sindh.

The intensity of the recent floods was worse than last year's floods in the country, according to National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). The floods, caused by heavy monsoon rains, have displaced more than 300,000 people in Sindh province where people are still suffering from the last year's devastating floods.

A total of four million acres of land, including over 2 million acres of agriculture land has been inundated, causing damage to 80 per cent of cash crops. The cotton crop in the flood-affected districts of Sindh was totally destroyed, while the sugarcane crop was partially damaged.

Cotton crop estimated at 2.7 million bales has been washed away due to devastating floods in Sindh. The country has set the targets to produce about 15 million cotton bales during the current fiscal year 2011-12. The county would have to import cotton to meet this shortfall this year.

"Recent damage was bigger than last year's floods when about 2.4 million cotton bales were destroyed across the cotton growing areas in the country. This time 2.7 million bales were damaged alone in Sindh province," APP reported Khalid Abdullah, the cotton development commissioner, as saying.

As many as 14,000 cattle have been killed in Sindh due to recent floods while the remaining need vaccination and fodder for survival, according to the Food and Agriculture Origination (FAO).

The threat of epidemic looms large in flood affected areas including Badin, Thatta, Hyderabad, Tando Adam, Tando Allahyar, Mirpurkhas, Umerkot and Sanghar where diseases are spreading fast among people and livestock.

The potential loss in the agriculture output could cause a decline in gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate and a rise in already high inflation.

Indian exporters are anticipating further orders of vegetables, as the prices of vegetables have gone up by a 100 per cent in flood-hit country.

Prices of vegetables have risen sharply over the past weeks as supplies were affected following the floods raising the demand for Indian vegetables through Attari-Wagah land route.

"We were sending just 20 trucks of tomatoes few days back. As there is heavy damage to vegetable crop in Pakistan by rains, the demand for Indian tomato increased sharply," Press Trust of India reported Rajdeep Uppal, the Amritsar-based vegetable merchant as saying.

Heavy rains and floods have destroyed 67 percent of the food stocks in Sindh province. The country urgently requires $18.9 million to deal with the most urgent needs of millions of rural families in the affected.

"Millions of people are destitute and face an uncertain and food-insecure future," according to the UN's FAO.

The United Nations has initially appealed for $357 million help, as the humanitarian crisis deepens in Sindh where catastrophic floods swamped more than seven million people killed 342 people.

Despite the UN appeal, donors are not stepping forward due to the lack of trust in government authorities. They are not willing to donate a penny to Islamabad without getting assurance about how and where their money will be spent.

Lack of credibility for the present coalition government led by President Asif Ali Zardari is a big issue discouraging the donors.

The government's inadequate response to current flooding amply reflects that it was ill-prepared even after witnessing the disaster brought about by the last year's floods that killed about 2,000 people and in which one-fifth of the country's land was submerged in water.

The government for the second time has been late and insufficient to cop with the situation with better flood-proofing after last year's unprecedented flooding, which caused $10 billion worth of damages.

Ironically, while the poor and weak were submerged in flood water, the country's ruling elite were on foreign tours looking to the foreign countries for help, as they see their aggrieved masses mired in devastating floods as the white men's burden.

Critics say that the government has developed the habit of begging from foreign countries instead of effectively utilizing its resources for disaster management.

An example of government's insensitivity came to light when the NDMA disclosed that the government has not yet released Rs5 billion collected for flood victims last year to the NDMA for relief and rescue operation.

No protection measures such as raising the canal embankments after last year's floods were taken by the government which could minimize the destruction caused by the floods.

Submerged in corruption, the country's state institutions lack the capacity to deliver in calamity-hit areas.

It is harder for a cash-strapped and hugely indebted country to cope with the devastating flooding for the second time after one year.

The country has not yet recovered from the last year's floods due to the damages to infrastructure, irrigation systems, bridges, houses and roads.

The government's recent decision to say 'no to International Monetary Fund (IMF)' for restoration of current $11 billion loan program or for new loan has no rationale at the critical hour when the nation needs enough funds for rehabilitation of flood victims.

The government on March 15 imposed 15 per cent flood surcharge on payable tax to raise Rs20 billion for the rehabilitation of flood-stricken people. The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) could collect only Rs8 billion as flood surcharge because all big corporations refused to pay the tax. The government is unable to pay Rs20,000 each to the flood-affected family due to scarcity of resources.