Traders negate NFRCC’s claim, warn of looming food security crisis

Published: 02:31 PM, 24 Sep, 2022
Traders negate NFRCC’s claim, warn of looming food security crisis
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Negating NFRCC’s claim that there was no shortage of food items in the country, the Pakistan Industrial and Traders Associations Front Chambers of Commerce and Industry’s Businessmen Panel (BMP) has warned that a food security crisis is looming, as the deadly floods have damaged rice, cotton and vegetables crops widely, besides the threat of wheat planting in the coming months, asking the government to mobilize resources for immediate response in this regard, reported 24NewsHD TV channel. 

PIAF Chairman Faheem Ur Rehman Saigol observed that a food crisis could be imminent followed by the floods, which have caused widespread devastation, calling the government to improve governance, besides adopting austerity measures to control losses. 

He said that global prices of kitchen staples soared following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, driving food inflation to a record. The catastrophic flood, which is estimated to cost the economy $30-40 billion, is another hit to Pakistan that’s already battling an economic crisis.  

He said that the agricultural sector is in turmoil because the cotton crop and vegetables are completely wiped out in many key areas. 

Faheem Siagol said that our country, one of the most vulnerable globally to climate change, has seen the highest rainfall in at least three decades. About a third of the country is currently flooded. As much as half of cotton crop has been damaged by torrential rains of Pakistan- the fifth-largest cotton producer, accounting for 5% of global output. The damage could further shrink the world’s cotton supply. 

The PIAF Chairman said that food costs have jumped in the country, with tomatoes surging five times and onions tripling since last month and it is good that steps are being taken to import vegetables and other items from Iran and Afghanistan. He said that the World Food Program is working to expand food assistance, aiming to reach about half a million people in the badly-hit provinces of Balochistan and Sindh. However, distributions are hampered as floodwaters are restricting access across the country, as more than 100 bridges and about 3,000 kilometers of roads have been damaged or destroyed, almost 800,000 farm animals have perished, and two million acres of crops and orchards have been hit. 

Pakistan already has one of the fastest inflation rates in the region, with consumer price gains rising to a 14-year high of almost 27%. Sowing next year’s wheat crop, which starts in October, will be another challenge, as the country was facing a wheat shortage of about 2.6 million tons even before the floods 

He asked the government to identify priority needs, including food security, agriculture and livestock, health, water, sanitation, hygiene, shelter, and nonfood items. 

The country’s agricultural sector has been hit the hardest with the finance ministry also recently warning that production of major crops would be affected due to the floods. He said 100% of the cotton crop in Sindh, which accounts for30% of the crop in Pakistan, has been destroyed, which amounts to losses of at least $1 billion, which will cascade through the economy, he said. 

He said it might take five years to rebuild and rehabilitate the flood-hit areas, which might face an acute challenge of food shortage. 

He said that the whole business community stands with the people of Pakistan during these difficult times, as we are committed to working with the government and other development partners to help Pakistan overcome the devastating impact of this natural disaster and provide immediate relief to affected families.

On Friday, the National Flood Response and Coordination Centre (NFRCC) had said that there was no shortage of food items as the country has got a huge stock of wheat enough for next six months along with the strategic reserves which was sufficient till next harvesting season.

According to the NFRCC, the government has got more than 2 million tons of strategic reserves. It said an import of additional stock of 1.8 million tons is in progress out of which 0.6 million tons have reached. However, 46,000 tons of wheat from public sector is releasing on daily basis.

It revealed that the bumper crops of tomato harvested last year is sufficient to fulfil the demand. A total of 7.5 million tons of potato were harvested, however, total requirement is 4.2 million tons for the country.

Import of both onion and potato is in progress from Iran and Afghanistan. In this regard, the government has directed to wave off all duties i.e. 27%, however, the release/distribution of items is ensured same day at the earliest.

Total requirement of onion and tomato in country is 1.5 lakh tons and 50,000, respectively. However, more than 55,000 tons of tomato and 6,000 tons of onion have reached, excluding the available domestic stock.