60 percent population of Pakistan food insecure: SEARCH

KARACHI: Society for Environmental Actions, Re-Construction and Humanitarian response (SEARCH) Pakistan in collaboration with ActionAid Pakistan is organizing a consultative workshop on Sustainable Agriculture Policy for Sindh on 31 May 2014 in Hyderabad.

Executive Director, SEARCH Pakistan, Waheed Jamali, said that Sindh direly needs sustainable agriculture policy to ensure food security in country. He said that 60 percent population of Pakistan is food insecure, therefore, it is the need of the hour that agriculture sector be provided greater incentives in budget.

He said that the country will not make real progress if agriculture is not stimulated and small farmers are not given incentives because of the fact that supporting corporate sector only will create wide gap between power of people and rich class.

Jamali said there is also need to promote enhanced flow of credit to the agriculture sector without compromising financial stability. “The interest-free small loans should be given to poor farmers so that they could grow crops and earn livelihood for their families,” he said.

Pakistan is an agricultural country as about 70% of Pakistan population lives in rural areas and about 60% of total population is indirectly and 40% directly employed by agriculture. Pakistan’s principal natural resources are arable land and water.

He said the economic importance of agriculture has declined since independence, when its share of GDP was around 53%. Following the poor harvest of 1993, the government introduced agriculture assistance policies, including increased support prices for many agricultural commodities and expanded availability of agricultural credit.

“From 1993 to 1997, real growth in the agricultural sector averaged 5.7% but has since declined to about 4%. Agricultural reforms, including increased wheat and oilseed production, play a central role in the government’s economic reform package.”

Jamali said: “Outdated irrigation practices have lead to inefficient water usage in Pakistan. 25 per cent of the water withdrawn for use in the agricultural sector is lost through leakages and line losses in the canals. Only a limited amount of the remaining water is actually absorbed and used by the crops due to poor soil texture and unlevelled fields.”

He said much of the Pakistan’s agriculture output is utilized by the country’s growing processed-food industry. The value of processed retail food sales has grown 12 percent annually during the Nineties and was estimated at over $1 billion in 2000, although supermarkets accounted for just over 10% of the outlets, he concluded.

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