Food insecurity looms as government procrastinates


ISLAMABAD: The failure of the government to provide key agricultural inputs on time for flood-affected farmers and rehabilitation of the damaged canal infrastructure pose a major threat to the upcoming Rabi crops, official sources said.
The government estimates to achieve 24 million tonnes of wheat production next year. However, agriculture experts fear a massive decline in production, between 18 to 20 million tonnes against an annual wheat demand of 22 million.
The farmers are facing financial problems after losing their dwellings, livestock and other agriculture implants. The unavailability of workforce would be another challenge, as majority of the people having small acreage or no lands will prefer locating to cities instead of going back to rural areas to work for low wages, sources said.
The Ministry of Food and Agriculture had worked out an assistance of Rs 6,100 per acre, having a provision of 50 kg of wheat seed, 2 bags of urea and one bag of DAP per acre for sowing wheat. However, the government approved only Rs 2,400 per acre. With this grant, the farmers can either buy wheat seeds or urea.
The farmers in Khyber-Phaktoonkawa and Punjab have already started Rabi sowing through their own resources. The delay in grant will reduce timely use of appropriate inputs which will affect the wheat production. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has already warned that delay in sowing Rabi crops, especially wheat, and more livestock losses could increase emergency aid needs.
UN humanitarian agencies plan to provide emergency food rations for the affected areas till January next year. The international humanitarian agencies have stressed timely availability of critical agriculture inputs during the wheat-sowing season between September and November to prevent drastic losses in wheat yield. If this season’s wheat harvest is missed, the next wheat harvest would be in the spring of 2012.