Inflation to worsen as flooding devastates crops

Prices of several commodities like onions and tomatoes are already on the up


Rizwan Asif September 01, 2022
The villagers who fled from the flood-hit areas sit on a tractor to cross a flooded area in Sehwan on Wednesday. Photo: AFP

LAHORE:

As hundreds of people and thousands of animals fall prey to the monsoon flooding, another concern which will add to the misery of flood affectees in the upcoming months is food insecurity.

In both Sindh and Punjab, where the flooding has upended lives on a large scale, thousands of acres of farmlands are currently submerged under muddy waters. The crops of cotton, corn, tomatoes, and onions have been severely damaged and a shortage is now on the horizon followed by an abnormal increase in prices.

Khalid Khokhar, Chairman of Pakistan Kisan Ittehad, a representative organisation of farmers, said that the flood has broken the back bone of agriculture and farmers are reeling from the shock. “It has become impossible for them to cultivate crops for the new season or to buy fertilisers and agricultural medicines to increase production.” Khokhar suggested that timely measures need to be taken to deter the impending food crisis.

In light of the threat that looms, the Special Committee of the Punjab Agriculture Department has informed the Federal Ministry of National Food Security that there may be a severe shortage in the availability and production of many crops including tomatoes and onions for the next three months, so timely measures should be taken for the import of these items.

Despite the warning to the federal government, representatives of different associations of traders of fruits and vegetables across Punjab believe that the devastation to farmlands is not being accurately estimated. Muhammad Amin Bhatti, who is the chairman of one such association, said, “the next three months will be very important in terms of availability and prices of agricultural commodities.”

Bhatti predicted that the populace of the country would be looking at another inflationary wave. Bhatti’s prediction might not be misplaced, as according to an official report, the price of onions has increased from Rs 63 to Rs.130 per kg, but they are being sold between Rs 180 and Rs 200 per kg in the open market.

Similarly, the price of tomatoes has increased from Rs 80 to Rs 130 per kg, but are being sold for up to Rs 200 per kg. This rampant increase in prices has led to Mian Faisal Majeed, who is the president of a fruit and vegetable trader association, suggesting that the federal and provincial governments should immediately strategise as to which neighbouring countries they could import the commodities from to bridge the shortfall.

“Pakistani importers also need to be taken on board in such decisions. Furthermore, many agricultural commodities from India are coming to Pakistan by Afghanistan through illegal routes and methods,
so there is a dire need to regulate them,” said Majeed.

Directorial General of the Punjab Agricultural Marketing Regulatory Authority, Mohsin Abbas, when asked about the alarm bells that had been rung by farmers and traders, concurred that production of agricultural commodities would indeed take a hit.

“We have recently held a meeting in which it was decided to inform the federal government of the crisis that will linger on for the next three months. We have also asked the federal government to take immediate steps to address the shortage,” Abbas informed while talking to The Express Tribune.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 1st, 2022.

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