ISLAMABAD: Despite the passage of almost two years, the federal government has yet to call the first meeting of the National Food Security Commission - a seemingly vital body formed to tackle the emerging challenge of food insecurity in the country.
The government had announced the establishment of the commission in the budget for 2014-15 in an effort to frame a national policy for long-term sustainability of food security and agriculture development.
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According to officials, the Ministry of National Food Security and Research has written scores of letters to the Prime Minister’s Secretariat for holding a meeting of the commission as the premier is its chairman and his approval is a prerequisite for the huddle. The federal minister for national food security is the deputy chairman.
The fundamental objective of the commission is to formulate effective and sustainable policies and their implementation in association with provincial governments, which run their respective food ministries after the passage of 18th Constitutional Amendment.
Apart from the failure of the commission to meet, necessary funds could not be allocated to enable the body to formally start functioning in a streamlined manner.
As documents suggest, the commission holds five key mandates for working as a national organisation.
Its first objective is to forge consensus between federal and provincial governments as well as administrative regions on policy formulation to ensure long-term food security in the country. The policy coordination will be related to productivity improvement, market reforms, value addition and fair prices for farmers.
The second mandate requires allocation of resources by the federal and provincial governments and administrative units for the development of agriculture.
Other tasks for the body include infrastructure development for maximising export of agriculture products, promoting value addition to farm produce and ensuring food security for the vulnerable and marginalised communities.
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“The Prime Minister’s Secretariat has been reminded many a time to set the agenda and allocate budget for the food security commission, but it has not responded,” a senior officer of the national food security ministry told The Express Tribune.
The official pointed out that the agriculture sector had suffered immensely in the absence of such a centralised body as provinces completely ignored the sector after taking it over under the power devolution process.
Poor coordination and delay in policy implementation have added to the sector’s woes despite production of bumper crops and surplus commodities.
“They (provinces) neither earmark required resources nor listen to the centre on policy issues, which hurts the national interest,” he noted.
This was the reason why the prime minister approved the setting up of the food security commission under the federal government, but unfortunately it has yet to formally begin working as an effective body.
“We still expect the commission to bridge the gap between key stakeholders of food security and agriculture development,” the official remarked.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 1st, 2016.
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