Almost 37 percent of our population is food insecure despite the fact that Pakistan is self-sufficient in major staples at present and the main problem is access and affordability to food, this was stated by Shaikh Sultan Rehman Vice President of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) in an interactive seminar on Food Security in Pakistan held at Federation House Karachi, Regional Office Lahore and Capital Office Islamabad via zoom video link.
The Seminar was attended by Khurram Ijaz and Qaiser Khan, Vice Presidents FPCCI, Former Sr. Vice President FPCCI Shaukat Ahmed, Senior Members FPCCI Nasir Hayat Magoon, Nousherwan Mughal and Qaisra Sheikh, Muhammad Khalid Qaim khani, Additional Director Food & Finance Sindh Government, Dr. Rafique Ahmed Chandio, Director General Agriculture Policy Institute, Ms Asma Khalid Sr. Economist, State Bank of Pakistan, Representative of Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation, Seed Association of Pakistan and Croplife Pakistan, Mr. Jamshed Iqbal Cheema, Chairman Crop Protection Association of Pakistan, Representatives of Sitara Chemicals, Representative from Quetta Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Mr. Sultan Mehmood, Seed Association of Pakistan.
While welcoming the participants, Shaikh Sultan Rehman Vice President FPCCI emphasized on the food security in Pakistan which has high linkage with human capital and strong economic implications. While highlighting the facts and figure of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN, he added that high rate of malnutrition can cost to an economy around 3-4 percent of GDP which mainly affects our young generation mainly due to rising of death rate, malnutrition, low future productivity. Moreover, rising of population and climate changes are other challenges which may risk food security in future. He informed that globally Pakistan ranked 8th in production of wheat, tenth in rice, 5th in sugarcane and 4th in milk production, despite this Pakistan faces occasionally shortage of these products which affects their prices. He added that hoarding and smuggling are other issues also create food shortage in Pakistan. He underscored the need for implementation of National Food Security Policy announced in 2018; wherein it was decided that the agriculture production will be increased by 4 percent every year and special attention will be given on agriculture research.
Mr. Khurram Ijaz, Vice President FPCCI also showed his concern over the locust attach on different crops in Pakistan which affects the agriculture productivity. He emphasized on strong institutionalization which can contribute significantly in coming out from crisis.
Dr. Rafique Ahmed Chandio, Director General Agriculture Policy Institute discussed different dimensions of food security like productivity, availability of variety of food, accessibility and affordability. He emphasized on the strong coordination between federal and provincial government and private sector. He added that the COVID-19 increased poverty and unemployment in Pakistan which may create food insecurity in Pakistan. Government initiated different programs in order to overcome the poverty and unemployment but institution’s response is very weak due to insufficient data availability. Moreover, global economic policies of WTO, unfair trade regime and Tariff rationalization are hurting agriculture investment in Pakistan.
Ms. Asma Khalid Senior Economist State Bank of Pakistan stated that Per Capita consumption of food products that possess high-nutritional value like beef, chicken, fish, milk, vegetables and fruits is almost 6-10 times lower than that of developed countries which affects the labor productivity and young population. She added that Pakistan ranked 106thamong 119 countries in Global Hunger Index, and has been characterized as facing a “serious” level of hunger due to under-nourishment, micronutrient (iron, calcium, vitamin-A) deficiencies and a deficit of safe drinkable water. under-5 malnutrition costs around US$ 7.5 billion every year, which is equivalent to 3 percent of GDP and the cost comprises loss of future labor force, high under 5 mortality, low labor productivity emanating from stunting, anemia or iodine deficiencies in childhood; and prevalence of chronic weakness and fatigue etc. She also emphasized on the support price of all crops and agriculture insurance in order to support the farmers. Rising of population and climate changes will create challenges for Pakistan to secure food.
Mr. Muhammad Khalid Qaim khani, Additional Director Food & Finance Sindh Government highlighted the issues of harvesting particularly declining of wheat production in Punjab and shifting from staple crops to other crops. He also emphasized on the improvement in crops quality, enhancing of crops yield, better usage of pesticides etc.
Mr. Jamshed Iqbal Cheema, Chairman Crop Protection Association of Pakistan added that there is high food insecurity in Baluchistan and KPK followed by Sindh due to rising of poverty, unemployment and low income of people. He emphasized on the changing of eating habits towards that crops where there is high potential available like potatoes, maize, cow milk etc and have better nutritions compared to traditional foods which will help in reducing the under-nutrition issues and improve labor productivity.
Ms. Qaisra Sheikh Coordinator Women Entrepreneurs of FPCCI also focused on purification of food items and wastage of food in Pakistan. She also highlighted the issues of household women whose are facing deficiency in food and anemia etc. Mr. Nousherwan Mughal FPCCI member also underscored the need of establishing agriculture labs for value addition of agriculture products and innovation of new varieties of agriculture product.
In his concluding remarks, Sheikh Sultan Rehman, Vice President FPCCI emphasized the need to form long-term, consistent policies with consultation with all stakeholders, establish warehouses and cold storages to save fruits and vegetables from being rotten, utilize modern irrigation technologies to increase Food Security in Pakistan. He offered vote of thanks to the participants.