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Business Recorder

Published Date: Mar 22, 2012

NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR FOOD SECURITY TO BE ESTABLISHED

The government on Wednesday announced to establish ‘national council for food security’ in the country to achieve ‘Zero hunger action plan’ to be implemented in the next five years in the face of growing plague of double digit inflation triggered by the policies during the last year, which has pushed more people below poverty line.

The plan unveiled here by Ministry of Food and Security, Research in collaboration with World Food Programme, FAO, Oxfam and SDPI to cope with the future challenge of food security in Pakistan would require 16 billion dollars in the next five years to implement the envisaged activities. Printing of currency by the State Bank of Pakistan to cater to the need of government, increase in support price of wheat to Rs 1,050 as well as regular increase in the prices of petroleum products are considered as major factors by analysts for the raise in inflation which seems to have eroded purchasing power of major chunk of the population.

Speaking as chief guest, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani said the priority of the government was to ensure food security for women and children through various interventions in collaboration with international agencies and private sector.

He said school feeding programme in the most food insecure districts would be initiated as well as nutrition programmes for children under five years of age and nutrition programmes for pregnant and lactating mothers would also be initiated.

Gilani said that targeted and conditional social safety nets would be put in place and zero-hunger shops in low income areas of major cities of Pakistan would be set up to achieve the target of zero hunger.

The Prime Minister said that coordination among various federal and provincial ministries, and private-public-civil society partnership would be required for effective implementation of the planned activities.

Gilani announced to establish ‘national council for food security’ comprising representatives of federal and provincial governments, private sector and civil society and directed the Ministry of National Food Security & Research to put up its structure and budget for approval within one month.

The PM said he would like to see in action a unified and consistent policy of coordination aimed at energy security, water security and food security. He directed the Ministries of National Resources to move hand in hand to develop plans and strategies to achieve food security and coordinate with provincial departments in order to become Team Pakistan.

The PM said the plan of zero hunger was the outcome of a long process of deliberations that culminated into a five-day workshop in which experts from Pakistan and abroad sat together to share their expertise and experiences.

Gilani expressed gratitude to all the participants and to WFP, Unicef, UNDP, USDA, USAID, SDPI, Oxfam and FAO who brought experts from Indonesia and Rome to share with us their best practices.

He said the country achieved extraordinary success during the first four years in agriculture sector with wheat production reaching highest level of 25 million tons and the country is being recognised as a net wheat exporter.

Gilani said that sugarcane production is a record 63 million tons and for the first time the country is expecting five million tons of sugar production and the cotton production would be around 14.2 million bales despite floods have damaged cotton crop. He said the country’s major export commodity- rice is fetching higher prices due to quality improvement.

He said, “Pakistan is also opening up high-end markets such as US and Japan for our horticulture crops like mango and citrus and beginning to make presence in the halal meat export market as well.”

Gilani said Pakistan’s Zero Hunger Action Plan comprises two distinct stages of the government as efforts have been made during the first three and a half years, for development of agriculture and livestock. Now, he said it was the right time to put all the pieces together and move up from agriculture and livestock to Food Security and Zero Hunger.

He also recounted and described seventh NFC Award and the 18th amendment as two landmark decisions by this government for changing dynamics of decision-making and governance in the country.

The PM said that through the seventh NFC Award, the federal government ensured that provinces got due share in available resources and through the 18th amendment, empowered the federating units to take initiatives for social sector development.

He said the Ministry of Food and Agriculture had already been devolved to give provinces more powers to legislate, plan and implement extension and development programmes for food, agriculture and livestock,.

Gilani assured that “Ministry of National Food Security and Research through its Zero Hunger Action Plan would not duplicate what provincial departments of agriculture, food, livestock or fisheries are doing. Rather, it will facilitate and support the efforts of the federating units in fulfilling this vital goal envisioned originally by Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. The Ministry will mobilise international support to help reduce hunger and malnutrition. The role of the Ministry is to develop plans and policies, organise resources and ensure achievement of desired results.”

Gilani said the surveys carried out by SDPI and WFP showed that 45 districts were extremely food insecure and they were spread across all provinces. “This is the target group that requires our immediate attention.”

Zero Hunger Action Plan, he said proposed about a dozen interventions and some of them the government was already implementing such as Benazir Income Support Programme, Wheat Support Pricing and Watan Card.