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Rasheed Khalid

The News

Published Date: Oct 18, 2011

INACCESSIBLE FOOD PRICES DECREASE WHEAT CONSUMPTION BY 15%

The 15 per cent decrease in wheat consumption despite enough production was mainly because of inaccessible food prices and infrastructure-related challenges, said SDPI’s Executive Director Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri here on Monday.

He was speaking at a seminar on “Food prices: from crisis to stability” jointly organised by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) and Oxfam here. He said that food prices in Pakistan are a crisis of governance. Appreciating the devolution process, he lamented that giving Ministry of Food and Agriculture under Ministry of Science of Technology would only improve technological aspects of the Ministry but not the food-related issues.

He criticised the shift from agricultural economy to services sector economy bypassing industrial economy, which requires highly literate, professionally qualified and skilled labour in contrast to agriculture and manufacturing sectors. “We are becoming a food insecure nation as not only food consumption patterns are changing but also poverty and social unrest is increasing.” He added.

He stressed the need of importing food items at least vegetables from India. He also recommended free school lunch system in the public schools ensuring at least one-time nutrition food in a day to the children of poor families besides a thorough assessment of Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) to determine the effectiveness of resources invested in this initiative.

He said that till last year, 50 per cent population was spending their 65-75% of income on food at the cost of other social expenditures such as shelter, education and health. He said that food deficiency leads to intra-house food insecurity among lower-middle and lower class families as priority is given to male breadwinners to keep them physically fit for family earnings at the cost of women, children and elderly.
Country Representative Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Kavin D Gallagher, talked about fluctuating food prices in Pakistan and across the globe. He identified 2008 global financial crisis as the real factor, which increased food prices globally and also linked food prices with growing oil prices.
He said that Pakistan had bumper wheat crop last year in districts, which were not affected by 2010 floods. The districts which were affected last year, and this year also have become food insecure, where farmers had become heavily indebted as they have to borrow to rebuild their houses as well as invest in agricultural inputs such as seeds and grains and restock their livestock.
Kevin was of the view that food storage is not only Pakistan’s problem but rather it’s a global issue. He said that recurrence of disasters across the world heavily dented the food grains reserves resulting in enormous increase in food prices. He said that IMF and financial institutions through structural adjustments, encouraged countries to move towards food reserves in private sectors, which further lowered the grain stocks throughout the world.