Food inflation

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Health has its science, as well as disease. Currently, Pakistan is going through the worst-ever food crisis, which is affecting the general health of the public.

According to WHO reports, the majority of Pakistani adults as well as children are not getting the calories required to maintain a healthy body.

This is quite depressing and surprising as Pakistan is regarded as one of the largest producers of agriculture and dairy products in the world. Most of the daily food items like vegetables, meat, flour, sugar are out of the reach of the common man due to high prices. This is mainly due to demand exceeding supply, which is not so unexpected in a country of 170 million people.

The supply side is affected by less production, hoarding and smuggling of existential commodities. The solution to the food crisis does not lie in importing food items and making up the shortfall. The problem should be solved internally. Pakistan is a country abundant in resources required to produce food. Contrary to popular belief, there is no scarcity of water and land under cultivation in Pakistan.

The food crisis is not due to scarcity of these resources; it is due to the bad management of these resources. This bad management relates to the uneven distribution of water for irrigation, expensive inputs like fertilisers, pesticides, availability of micro-credit to small farmers and, above all, poor access to markets where farmers can sell their produce. This has resulted in low motivation for farmers who have either switched to other trades or reverted to minimum production levels.

I suggest that the government should first of all revamp the centuries-old irrigation system and use technology to control and monitor water distribution. The inputs to food production should have zero tax and tax should be on output, not input. This will motivate farmers to produce more and sell in order to spread their total cost evenly. Also, farmers must have direct and uninterrupted access to markets in order to sell their produce at market-determined prices.

FATIMA BAREE

Karachi