Tariq Ullah Wardak
Published Date: Jun 1, 2021
Food security ensured in the country through robust measures despite bottlenecks: Syed Fakhar Imam
The Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research, Syed Fakhar Imam expressed at a webinar held that despite the numerous challenges Pakistan has faced during the last two years, the threats to food security were responded with robust actions by the government at every level.
During the time of Covid-19, locust attacks were a major challenge. However, through collaborative efforts, the threat was reduced to a minimum. The Minister spoke at the webinar ‘Ensuring food security amid Covid-19 through ecosystem restoration’ held by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) in collaboration with UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).
He added further that failure in monitoring food prices leads to inaccurate predictions about market price trends. Therefore, the government had purchased more wheat to mitigate any shortage.
“Despite Covid-19 and its impacts, we are having 6 bumper crops this year including wheat, rice and maize,” saying that the focus of the government in the future would be on improving the livestock sector, organic farming and becoming self-reliant on edible oils.
Pakistan needs to build up institutional mechanisms and make full use of its human resources to overcome challenges of climate change and expanding biodiversity.
Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Food Security, Mr Jamshed Iqbal Cheema, while highlighting various problems in the livestock sector, said that the government was shifting its focus to new areas such as Balochistan and Thar Desert, especially for crops such as cotton.
Mr. Cheema further added that fruit tree plantations in urban areas, cultivation of medicinal plants and increased production of crops such as ginger, cardamom, avocados and coffee are being planned.
These super foods will be grown locally and given upscale production with the help of nurseries, scientists and farmers to enhance exports in the future. He highlighted that the government plans to provide loans to farmers and food processing plants across the country as well as initiating commercial activities in the rural sector to reduce rural to urban migration.
Senior Economist and Team Lead of FCDO, Mr Richard Ough, explained how the subjects of ecosystem, food security and diversity are linked and was of the view that food pricing and its monitoring provides valuable data that is fundamental in ensuring food security. Besides, initiatives to transform arid dessert lands to arable ones could be explored, he added.
Moving on, Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri, Executive Director of SDPI, presented a brief overview of the topic and highlighted the importance of ecosystem restoration. It is important not only to protect global flora and fauna, but also in terms of ensuring food security, he emphasized.
Kashif Majeed Salik, Associate Research Fellow in SDPI, highlighted Covid-19’s impact on agriculture and food system and explained how transport restrictions, shortage of labour and machinery, increase in farm input prices and farmers’ limited access to the market caused major disruptions in the food supply chain in Pakistan.
He informed the participants that the most affected crops during the pandemic were perishable items such as fruits, vegetables and dairy products.
Mr Salik added further that the pandemic has highlighted the importance of cold storage, the dynamics of farm labour markets and the significance of small-scale food processing for value addition, particularly partible commodities. He said that the ability of public departments and institutions to secure food supply chains during the pandemic was particularly low.
Besides identifying changes in agro-ecological zones and endangered regional ecosystems of Pakistan, focus on agricultural and green growth, water conservation and management should be key priorities, he concluded.