ISLAMABAD, May 31 (APP): Pakistan needs to empower the agriculture and livestock producers with increased use of technology to ensure broader adaption of climate-smart agriculture. Improved focus and efficiency in government expenditures are also essential to adjust the food system to higher food and energy prices.
According to an article published by the World Bank, Pakistan needs to encourage greater use of digital technologies in both rural and urban areas to make the food system more responsive, resilient and, efficient.
Collaboration across government actors, private sector, civil society, and charitable organizations, is necessary for improving identification of vulnerable households, targeting beneficiaries of social safety nets, and monitoring effectiveness of different food security support instruments.
Pakistan also needs to address food insecurity in both rural and urban areas via multi-sectoral interventions that improve production, processing, transport, storage, and marketing.
It also needs to make markets more accessible to both producers and consumers. It’s important to prioritize work on legislation, guidelines and regulations for enhanced quality control, better payments systems, and consumer protection regulations.
The COVID pandemic highlighted the risk and impact of disease transmissions from animals to humans. Pakistan has a large stock of livestock with a substantial viral and bacterial load.
This makes it particularly important for the government to take concrete steps such as enhancing vaccination campaigns against common livestock diseases, formulating improved regulations for the establishment and operations of livestock colonies, and developing institutional capacities and protocols for surveillance, monitoring, and reporting system in both rural and urban areas.
The “One Health” approach launched by Government provides an excellent opportunity to take a more holistic and integrated approach to human, animal, and plant health.
The article added that the impact of COVID-19 pandemic was particularly severe on daily wage earners and others with no employment protection. The lockdowns imposed and disruption in economic activities increased food insecurity.
An estimated 50% of the population ate less or switched to lower quality food. Some 40% of the population faced moderate to severe food insecurity during April to July 2020.
The agriculture sector was also affected by lockdowns and disruptions in markets. Higher imports helped ensure consumers had ready access to key staples. For example, wheat imports reached 3.6 million tons in 2020 – a level not seen for several decades. However, markets for nutritious and perishable products such as meat, milk, fruits and vegetables proved more fragile with both producers and consumers facing difficulties.
The food system in Pakistan was able to meet the bulk of food needs during the pandemic. However, as COVID-19 retreats, conditions have not returned to normal as expected.
Shaukat Mukhtar, General Secretary of the Dairy Farmers’ Association confirms that the pandemic hit milk producers very hard, as demand dropped, transport was disrupted, and input costs increased.
“Milk prices remained capped, and we got limited support from Government. Many small to medium commercial producers closed and sold off their animals, while owners of one or two animals, who sell surplus milk to meet their family cash needs could no longer do so and had to cut down expenses. The dairy herd has been cut down and will take time to rebuild,” he adds.
The crisis also accelerated several ongoing trends in the food system. Increasing numbers of wholesalers and retailers provided home delivery services; and several major supermarkets expanded their direct sourcing from farmers and local aggregators.
The trend towards mechanization of farm operations also accelerated with an increased demand for machinery services and for skilled labor.
Continuing turbulence in international markets has sent food and fertilizer prices spiraling, which has highlighted the need to further transform food systems.
The situation improved significantly as the economy revived after general lockdowns ended on May 9 and were replaced with “Smart Lockdowns” that were much more selective and targeted.
A major contributing factor in the revival was the launching of several Government assistance programs.