‘Overpopulation, climate change threatening food security’

Experts call for employing modern technology to boost yields


APP November 21, 2022
People shop in a crowded market amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Kolkata, India, January 6, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD:

With the world’s population growing at a breakneck pace and global warming adversely affecting local food outputs, experts have emphasised that the looming food crisis should be addressed amicably.

“Under these circumstances, agriculture sector development has become of paramount significance to meet increasing dietary needs of a population growing at the rate of an average 1.94 per cent annually,” says the Ministry of National Food Security and Research Food Security Commissioner Dr Imtiaz Ali Gopang.

Besides population increase, rapid urbanisation has also widened gap between food production and supply to fulfill local requirements, he said, while revealing that on basis of current population growth, local wheat requirements would swell to over 36.21 million tons by 2030 with an average per capita consumption of 115kgs annually.

“Demand of other commodities like rice, maize and sugarcane would also increase, putting pressure on production side,” he added.

He said the situation worsens further due to heat waves, torrential rains and floods like the recent one that washed away crops on millions of acre land.

“Therefore, the government is working on short and long term strategies to ensure food security and cope with global inflation due to environmental degradation, conflicts and Covid-19” the official said.

Although the food security commissioner claimed that total under cultivation area has increased over the time, yet, he said it was incompatible with population growth as it increased more than four-times with sevenfold urban expansion of mega cities.

“Therefore, we are also working on multi-pronged strategies to cope with food safety situation by strengthening local ecological conditions and improving cropping patron to enhance productivity of major and minor crops including oil seeds and pulses,” Imtiaz Ali informed.

As a step forward to compensate losses due to recent floods, the government has announced Rs1800 billion worth package for the affected as well as other farmers in the country, he stated.

“Provision of agricultural inputs like seeds, fertilisers and interest-free credit facility would provide respite to farmers in flood-hit areas as well as others parts of the country.”

He said under this package, the farmers in flood hit areas would be provided free of cost wheat seeds besides ensuring for them inexpensive loans and bringing down prices of fertilisers and tube well electricity bills.

The food commissioner informed that spending on this sector would generate additional income of approximately Rs400 billion as compared to the income of same period last year.

He also mentioned the earmarking Rs10.6 billion for small-scale growers across the country and Rs8 billion for farmers in flood-hit areas.

“To get maximum dividends from youth in rural areas, unemployed youth associated with agriculture sector will be provided Rs50 billion worth loans and another Rs6.5 billion in subsidy to waive off mark up on these loans, ” he added

As the agriculture sector is the backbone for our economy, there is a dire to invest in research for developing seeds resistant to global warming and climatic changes to push forward the agenda of adaptation, the top official said.

Since dealing with population explosion is already an uphill task, changing weather pattern is further aggravating this challenge with many countries yet to adapt to climatic changes and crops variability.

Pakistan is also not an exception with rough estimates predicting the country’s population to rise to around 220 million, growing at the rate of nearly two percent.

“Enhanced investment in research and development projects would help increase per-acre yield of crops and produce climate and drought resilient seeds of wheat, rice, maize, pulses and oil producing plants,” said Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (NARC) Chairman Dr Ghulam Muhammad Ali.

He said the NARC was assigned to develop new high-yielding and climate-tolerant seed varieties to enhance per-acre wheat output and it was providing over 200 tons of six high yielding wheat seed varieties to growers.

These varieties comprise Pakistan 2003, Borlaug 2016, Zencol 2016, Markaz 2019, NARC Supper and AZRIC Dera.

“National Institute for Genomics and Advanced Biotechnology (NIGAB) has also developed disease, drought and salinity resistant GMOs of wheat, groundnut, potato and tomato,” he informed.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 21st, 2022.

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