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Minfal prepares special programme for food security

FAISALABAD (September 22 2007): Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock (Minfal) has prepared a new comprehensive special programme for food security and productivity enhancement of small farmers in 1,012 villages of the country through crop maximisation project-I.

According to official sources, this project will be completed with the total cost of Rs 8613.522 million. The challenge of achieving food security for Pakistan remains a real one notwithstanding the progress in agriculture output since it depends on both availability of food as well as its access and affordability.

By best estimates, nearly half the population still suffers from varying degrees of outright malnutrition, as well as mild and moderate under-nutrition, with the most vulnerable being children, women and the elderly, especially among the lower 30 percent income group.

While the share of agriculture in GDP may decline to 10 percent by 2030, as has happened in the newly industrialised countries, continued growth of the agriculture sector would be important because it plays such a vital role in sustaining food security and natural resources base.

In spite of a worryingly high population growth, we are confident that Pakistan`s rich and productive resource base - augmented by the enterprising spirit of its farmers, and scientists - will not only achieve food, feed and fiber security, but also produce exportable surpluses.

The food balance sheets for the last decade indicate that the overall per capita availability of food items has only marginally been maintained, during which period the population grew by 20.1 percent, from 124.5 million in 1995 to 154 million in 2005. There have been slight reductions in total cereals production/consumption (wheat, rice, maize, millet sorghum, barley), and meat. However, increases have been recorded in milk, eggs and edible oil.

Official sources stated that increasing food availability alone will not overcome the problem of malnutrition unless other basic needs such as provision of safe drinking water, improved health care and basic education are made available to all as a part of an overall strategy to achieve food security for all.

Over the longer period of the last 25 years, availability of calories per day during this period (1979-80 to 2004-05) has decreased on average by 1.3 percent from 2301 to 2271 while that of protein has increased from 61.5 gm per day to 65.5 per day. Based on the pattern of existing food production and availability, and desirable change to the National Food Basket, on the pattern recommended by FAO, the consumption requirements per capita of major food commodities has been worked out up to 2030.

This shows we would require lesser cereals, but increases in pulses, meat, oils, vegetables and fruits and dairy products. Pakistan`s food security and agriculture surpluses for export at competitive prices require efficient development and utilisation of agricultural resources.

Cost of production of various crops are not competitive due to low productivity, which is a result of inefficient farming practices. In consideration of the role of machinery in modern farm operations, the use of machinery has been encouraged through increasing the provision of credit availability by commercial banks.

The demand for tractors has outstripped local production. Time lag in delivery of tractors is reportedly 4-11 months. Supply demand gap of 20,000 - 25,000 tractors per annum has been noted in the country against the existing production capacity of manufacturing units.

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