UN sounds alarm on food prices

Published: March 24, 2011
WFP chief says consumers now pay double for wheat compared to three years ago.

WFP chief says consumers now pay double for wheat compared to three years ago.

GENEVA: Pakistan’s government has pushed food prices too high for an impoverished population, as malnutrition levels rise despite the recovery of crops after devastating floods, a UN food relief official said on Wednesday.

Wolfgang Herbinger, director for the World Food Programme (WFP) in Pakistan, said food crops, especially wheat in the southern flood-hit plains were recovering fast with the prospect of decent crops over the coming weeks. “The crop outlook is not bad but the food security situation remains difficult because prices remain so high,“ he told journalists on the sidelines of humanitarian meetings in Geneva.

“The government is the biggest buyer of wheat in Pakistan they are setting the farm gate price and they dominate the market,“ Herbinger explained.

“That’s why the wheat price in Pakistan didn’t adjust when, for example, in 2009 and early 2010 the wheat price had gone back a lot, it stayed high to the detriment of local consumers.“

Now ordinary consumers pay double the price for wheat compared to three years ago and the food security situation has “changed dramatically,“ the WFP official added.

Malnutrition levels in the province of Sindh have reached 21 to 23 per cent, according to the agency. “That is well above African standards. The emergency standard is 15 per cent,“ the WFP official said.

A recent survey found that in some flood-hit areas 70 per cent of people were taking out loans and even using them to pay for food.

Herbinger admitted that the WFP was “struggling a bit“ to bring the message across to authorities. “You may have the country full with food but people are too poor to buy it,“ he explained.

“We are working a lot with the Ministry of Agriculture to explain to the minister that it is not enough to have enough production in the country if people can’t afford it.“

“Maybe for political reasons he doesn’t always understand it, that it’s one thing to be nice to the farmers but if your consumers can’t afford it then…there’s something wrong with agricultural policy,“ Herbinger added.

Massive floods caused by monsoon rains in July and August 2010 killed thousands, destroyed 1.7 million homes and damaged 5.4 million acres of arable land, experts have said.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 24th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (8)

  • Mohammad Ali Siddiqui
    Mar 24, 2011 - 9:38AM

    Kudos to PPP and Mr. Zardari.

    You have taken the right from the ordinary people to live with dignity and peace.

    How could you control the law and order situation when people cannot afford to buy food even for two times to eat.

    One could easily differentiate PPP of Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and the PPP of Asif Ali Zardari.

    ZAB gave all power to the ordinary people and Zardari has snatched the same powers from a common man.Recommend

  • KR
    Mar 24, 2011 - 9:55AM

    Just a couple of days ago Mr. 10% told us that economy is back on track and everything is fine, it is really hard for me to believe that he could possibly be wrong.

    70% of people in flood affected area are now taking out loans to pay for food ……. Absolute shame that people can’t even afford to feed their families in Pakistan. If things keep on getting worse we will see crime rate escalade to unimaginable level along with inflation and eventually total collapse of Pakistan.

    I am really starting to believe that ALL of our politicians actually live either in London or Dubai and just fly back to Pakistan every few day to enjoy their fame on national media and collect more money before they go in SELF IMPOSED EXILE.

    Someone needs to tell ALL of our corrupt politicians that they cannot take illegal money with them to hell and everyone will eventually have to answer for their own actions one day. Now is the time to set aside all of our differences, eliminate ALL these silly political parties and work together instead of trying to work in smaller groups and not getting anything done. Recommend

  • wsd
    Mar 24, 2011 - 10:09AM

    Na Roti, Na Kappra aur Na Makan…….

    The longer we have leaders like Shrifs and Zaradries, dooms day scenarios are more likely.
    We need a new leadership in the form of Imran Khan, Mahmood Achakzai etc.Recommend

  • aroon kumar
    Mar 24, 2011 - 11:41AM

    Sir this corrupt government if you teach him a good lesson how to run country who have full resources if you take over this country then we will see a better life in future thank you Recommend

  • said imran
    Mar 24, 2011 - 11:57AM

    The most basic thing how to set the prices of commodities is the economist literate.As we compared our country with the Indian we come to know that their prime minister is very educated and know how to deal with the traders and with the consumer.But our Govt. don’t take interest to give pleasure to the nation…very very sad……So i reach at a result that if our leaders and govt. of people sorry to say:(..should hand our country to the outsiders,because pakistani think that our govt don’t have guts……….Recommend

  • Syed imran
    Mar 24, 2011 - 2:11PM

    Congratulations to all PPP members for starving the nation and taking away all basic needs to survive with dignity.

    Shame on all PPP memebersRecommend

  • moise
    Mar 24, 2011 - 2:47PM

    Thanks the JP Morgan commodity desk, dont give credit to Zardari, give it to Blythe Masters who is spearheading speculation in commodities.Recommend

  • Paras Vikmani
    Mar 24, 2011 - 3:49PM

    and ur govt is busy buyin nuclear wepaons from chinaRecommend

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