Food Security of Pakistan

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Being an important country of South Asia, Pakistan covers an area of 796,095 km with a population of more than 212 million people which makes it the 6th most populous country in the world. If we further segregate the population into urban and rural areas, 64 percent of the population belongs to the rural areas. The growth rate of population is also high in Pakistan. Pakistan has a labour force of 65.5 million and a labour force participation rate of 44 percent. It is pertinent to mention that almost 39 percent of the country’s labour force is attached with the agriculture sector. Here we need to know that 30% of men whereas 67 % of women are involved in agriculture sector being labourers. Once it comes to Human Development Index, Pakistan has a medium score. The cropped area within the country consists of 22.6 million hectares out of the total area of 79.6 million hectares. When it comes to irrigation system 80 % of the cultivated area is irrigated by one of the largest irrigation systems in the world. Around 90 % of farms are less than 5 hectares out of a total 8.3 million farms. These small farms amount to 48 percent of the arable land. It is evident that the economy of Pakistan is mostly an agriculture based economy with a share of 18.5 % in the country’s GDP. Besides its implication to the economy, the agriculture sector has been essential for domestic food accessibility and self-reliance. Though there is still room for more food accessibility which has not been achieved yet in Pakistan, mostly for financial and social reasons. There are no standardized rules to measure the food insecurity in the country. The food security targets are not made part of the 11th Five Year Plan 2013-18. It only included an objective statement about reducing food insecurity. Likewise, Vision 2025 lacked suitable benchmarks for food security. As per a recent survey conducted by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) amid Covid 19, 40 % of Pakistani households are facing moderate or severe food insecurity. On the wide level, Pakistan has also been facing food security issues over the past few years, regardless of the fact that the country is self-sufficient in major staple foods. The pandemic has further worsened the situation in this regard. As we all know that in 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted across the globe and their attainment is one of the challenges worldwide. SDG 2 goal is all about Zero Hunger by using the occurrence of undernourishment and Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES) as the key indicators. The incumbent Government in Pakistan has now also adopted these and incorporated them in its 12th Five Year Plan 2018-23 to aim and calculate the level of food security in the country. This is indeed an imperative initiative in this regard since food insecurity seems to be increasing in the country and timely measures can control the situation. As per the 18th constitutional amendment, the functions of Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MINFA) were handed over to the provinces on 30th June 2011. Realizing the significance of attaining and maintaining national food security and enhanced execution of un-devolved functions of MINFA, Ministry of National Food Security and Research (MNFSR) was established by the Government of Pakistan on 26th October, 2011. In order to deal with the challenge of food insecurity, the Government of Pakistan has taken the initiative to devise a national food security policy but with the passage of time things have changed and the need to formulate or revamp the national food security policy has become an urgent necessitate. There is a dire need to take more actions to curb hunger in rural areas of Sindh and Balochistan. Regardless of enormous food production, the National Nutrition Survey of 2018 has discovered that 36.9 percent of the population in Pakistan is food insecure. Therefore the matter of food security should be given the greatest importance with pertinent measures to be taken.

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