Food Insecurity Threat
There are growing concerns about food insecurity becoming a major threat to South Asia, particularly to countries such as Pakistan. For the past three years, Pakistanis have gone through double-digit food price inflation in-tandem with declining incomes, resulting in a lot more Pakistanis becoming food insecure. According to the World Food Program (WFP) approximately 43 percent of Pakistanis are food insecure and 18 percent of those have acute food insecurity.
Globally, wheat prices have almost doubled since the Russo-Ukrainian War and the trend is likely to continue in the near future. The severity of these pressures will continue to rise the further the conflict is prolonged, and countries like Pakistan that are heavily reliant on importing commodities—oil and wheat in particular—will remain vulnerable to the trade shocks that are in the pipeline. Of course, this has a spill over effect on food prices. It is important to point out that food insecurity generally has two root causes: lack of availability and/or affordability issues. And in Pakistan’s context, the phenomenon is more of an affordability issue.
Considering the common basket of goods for the average consumer in the country, we have witnessed about a 30 percent increase in the cost of perishable food items. The pressure on the lower- and middle-income classes has been persistent since the onset of the pandemic resulting in a serious decline in purchasing power and real incomes.
These factors coupled with the severe impact of climate change requires a rethink at this moment of crisis. With reduced rainfall and the snow melting process not picking up pace, there is a water crisis that is also looming, which will in turn impact our agricultural yield in the near future.
With our import avenues dwindling given the global crisis, the interim government must centre its focus on agricultural and domestic productivity. A serious conversation also needs to be initiated around the impact of climate change on the agricultural sector, something which politicians have avoided thus far.