The increasing gap between availability and affordability of food has increased the incidence of food insecurity in Pakistan – an alarming 48.6 per cent of the population now faces food insecurity, according to the leading global food agency, the World Food Programme (WFP).
“There is food availability, but no food affordability,” says Oxfam project manager Fatima Naqvi.
Pakistan ranks 30, among 175 countries, in terms of food security, despite being a predominantly agricultural country, according to an official from the Food and Agriculture Organisation.
High food prices
Persistently high inflation has pushed the food prices too high for an average Pakistani to afford, said a UN official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The phenomenon has led to a number of people not being able to purchase necessary food items, leading them to cut down on other essentials, such as health and education, to meet their basic food requirements.
“We do not see the incidence of food insecurity decreasing any time soon, and with the pace of price hike, the future seems bleak,” the official said.
Food insecurity has also led to rise in incidence of malnutrition. If 15 per cent of the population faces malnutrition, it is considered a state of emergency, the official said, adding that in Sindh about 22 per cent of the population faces malnutrition.
The government tried to play its part by increasing the procurement price of wheat. However, wages of consumers, especially in urban areas, have not increased and they are facing the brunt of rising food prices. Meanwhile, the government refuses to cut down on its non-development expenditure and stem the fiscal deficit that fuels inflation.
Poor agriculture policy
The harvest outlook seems good this year and may ease price pressures, according to the ministry of food and agriculture. But an increase in production does not compensate for our poor agriculture policy and uneven distribution of resources between provinces, according to the UN official.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 11th, 2011.