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Pakistan’s food crisis deepens with arable land still under water

Massive floods in Pakistan cause huge losses (Photo credit-IANS)

The impact of the devastating floods continues to plague Pakistan as large swathes of land are still under water. This has impacted the sowing of winter crops in many places including Balochistan.

“While many parts of the country continue to be under water there are other cultivable areas, which have dried up but the problem is that the farmers are homeless and are struggling for survival…in this scenario, they have little wherewithal to support farming,” an analyst dealing with South Asia said.

Until last month, more than 4,000 square kilometers of land in Sindh remained underwater. In Balochistan too, people continue to suffer. Rail connectivity in the province has only been restored a couple of days ago.

The floods have further pushed the cost of food in Pakistan. In October, the cost of food in the country increased 36.24 per cent compared to the corresponding period in the previous year. Since June, food prices have been continuously rising. “The floods and the ghastly impact have only made things worse..the country was already reeling under high food and fuel prices,” the analyst said.

Washington based Foreign Policy magazine said that “to stave off further agricultural losses, Pakistan is counting on the harvest of its staple wheat crop, which is planted in the winter and harvested in the spring and early summer.” However, getting seeds in the ground will be no easy task given the land that remains submerged, it added.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) challenges arising from climate variability and geopolitical tensions have added to concerns related to food security. “Worryingly, many economically vulnerable countries are paying more while receiving less food,” FAO said in its report.

UNICEF pointed out that more than 3.4 million children in Pakistan are facing chronic hunger. Children continue to be hungry amid food shortages. Since the floods came, the number of people going hungry has soared by a staggering 45 percent, rising from 5.96 million before the floods hit to 8.62 million now facing emergency levels of food insecurity, it said.

Meanwhile, dissent among different government ministries is adding to the overall problem. While Pakistan’s food ministry is opposed to exports of sugar, the finance ministry is in favour of its outbound shipment.

Tariq Bashir Cheema, Minister for Food Security and Research in Pakistan has said that 40 per cent of sugarcane crop in Sindh has been destroyed but the sugar exporters have threatened “to not begin the crushing season until export of the one million tonnes of sugar is allowed,” Pakistan Today reported.

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