Food insecurity is one of the most-talked-about topics across the globe in the wake of pandemic, which has wreaked havoc by disrupting the global food supply chains causing surge in prices coupled with the inclement weather which has left adverse impact on the crop yields. There is anticipation that over 1.2 billion people in 76 countries along with Pakistan would undergo food insecurity impact which must be the cause of substantial concern.
The Agricultural Transformation Plan (ATP) of the PTI-led government if works could revolutionise the agriculture sector. The Agri Dashboard is said to be helpful in timely decision-making, demand-supply issues, effective monitoring of prices, procurement and action against profiteers. Pakistan has gotten a burgeoning population of around 220 million with 30 per cent aged between 10 and 24 years. Availability of wheat, rice, sugar, edible oil, spices, tea, pulses etc. at economical prices has become more significant today than ever before in the wake of inflationary pressures and uncertainty globally. Kamyab Kissan scheme of the government is said to be offering a host of incentives to the farmers right from interest-free loan, amount for purchasing farm machinery, low-cost certified wheat seed, a subsidy on pesticides etc.
Wheat production target for the Rabi season 2021-22 is said to be 29 million tonnes to ensure availability and stave off the hassle of import to meet the demand and to save the foreign exchange. It is likely that the sugar mills would produce 9 million tonnes of sugar which is 3 million tonnes more than the local consumption in the country.
Pakistan, though an agriculture economy, is one of the top five palm oil-importing countries in the world and by virtue of it is susceptible to global price trends. Edible oil price at this juncture is in the vicinity of $1,200 per tonne which has caused a ripple effect on the economy of Pakistan. Over $2 billion go out of the government coffers every year for the import of palm oil from Malaysia and Indonesia.
Pakistan has gotten potential to produce edible oil and underpin the economy by exporting the same to the neighboring countries such as India and China both being the first and the second largest importers of the product respectively. Malaysia alone produces about a third of the global palm oil production.
One of the leading farmers of Sindh told PAGE that Pakistan could not only meet its local demand but also export edible oil provided that the farmers get timely incentives and motivation. The government claims that spike of minimum support price for 2020-21 crop from Rs1,400 to Rs1,800 was instrumental is attaining wheat production of 27.5 million tonnes.
A humongous food trade deficit of $4 billion during the preceding fiscal year must be addressed sooner rather than later to thwart current account deficit conundrums. Pakistan’s edible items’ import is around $8 billion currently and the monumental chunk of this amount is spent by importing wheat, sugar, edible oil, spices, tea, pulses etc. Pakistan needs to invest in and encourage the perishable exports such as vegetables, beef, chicken, fish etc. Pakistan’s exports of edible items are around $4 billion including $2 billion of rice exports. Halal food is consumed by over 30% of the global population with the market value in the vicinity of over $3 trillion. Pakistan’s share is around 3% in the global halal meat exports which needs to be given precedence in the policy making so that the country could earn foreign exchange which is the need of the hour to fix the sagging economy.
In order to shore up foreign exchange reserves, the country is grappling with various options. With the trade gap of over $28 billion during the preceding fiscal year and depleting foreign exchange reserves, one of the solutions is to focus on agriculture sector to achieve food security and to underpin the economy.
With the imminent resumption of the loan programme of IMF, inflation is bound to surge leaving adverse impact on the vulnerable segment of the society which has been encountering impoverishment since birth.