Pakistan Is Slated To Be The Most Food-Insecure Country In Region

LAHORE: Despite claims made by the federal government about ending hunger from the country, food inflation in the country continues to take its toll on the masses, aggravating food insecurity in 2021 and beyond.

Amid a prediction that global hunger will surge by about a third this year in the region and continues to haunt the relatively large population in Pakistan even in 2031, dreams of curbing price hike of commodities may not materialize in the distant future.

The present cycle of inflationary pressure has mainly been driven by surging prices and dwindling income during the Covid-19 pandemic, affecting Central and South Asia mostly, according to the International Food Security Assessment, 2021–31, prepared by the US Department of Agriculture this month.

The analysis released this week utilizes information on domestic prices and consumer responsiveness to changes in prices and incomes for 76 low- and middle-income countries, containing current estimates and 10-year projections of food security. The 2021 report particularly assesses the combined impact of lower incomes and price shocks associated with the lingering effects of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic on present and future food security.

This appraisal study presents contrasting views when compared with the statement of the Federal Ministry of National Food Security & Research (MNFS&R), which was made public earlier this week in the federal capital. Vowing that the government is committed to achieving zero hunger targets by 2030, Federal Minister NFS&R, Syed Fakhar Imam had said Pakistan was facing food insecurity challenges like malnutrition which had strong implications on human capital development.

“Pakistan has become part of a review of progress on challenges associated with sustainable development goals (SDGs) in a bid to achieve global targets by 2030 while adopting an inclusive and comprehensive process,” Imam added.

According to the United Nations, the second of 17 Sustainable Development Goals pertains to ending hunger while achieving food security, improving nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture by 2030.

However, the International Food Security Assessment, 2021–31 Report projects Pakistan is poised to be the second most food insecure country in the CSA sub-region in 2021 and beyond. Pakistan —like the other countries in the region— has been severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Moreover, Pakistan’s economy shrank by almost 2.4 percent in 2020. Even though GDP is anticipated to grow almost by 2.1 percent in 2021, GDP per capita is anticipated to remain 4.3 percent below its 2019 level.

The prevalence of food insecurity in the country is estimated at 38.1 percent of the population in 2021, whereas the food insecure population in Pakistan is estimated to be 90.7 million.

From 2021 to 2031, GDP per capita is projected to grow faster by 2.5 percent a year than the population rate of 1.8 percent a year. The projected steady income growth, coupled with anticipated price stability over the next decade, though is expected to result in a sharp decline in the prevalence of food insecurity. In 2031, the share of the population considered food insecure is anticipated to be 16.0 percent, a decline of 58.0 percent from 2021.

The number of food-insecure people in 2031 is projected at 45.6 million, a 49.7 percent decline from the 2021 estimate. The intensity of food insecurity, indicated by the daily per capita calorie food gap, is projected to decline 22.7 percent, as the food gap changes from 389 kcal in 2021 to 301 kcal in 2031.

However, most worryingly, improvement in ending food insecurity in the country would be much lesser if compared with what Bangladesh and India are projected to achieve by 2031, the data compiled by the report suggests. In comparison with the trends of ending hunger in Bangladesh and India, the report predicts, the share of the food-insecure population will relatively be greater in size in Pakistan by 2031.

The food-insecure population is estimated to be 16.0 percent of Pakistan’s 285.2 million in 2031 against the present level of 38.1 percent out of 238.3 million.

In sheer contrast, out of Bangladesh’s 178.3 million population in 2031, the food-insecure population will be just 5.9 percent from the present 25.7 percent of 164.2 million. Similarly, Out of India’s 1.473 billion population in 2031, the food-insecure population will be just 2.2 percent from the present 25.8 percent of 1.340 billion.

Barely in single digits, as per the yearly analysis of June 2021 over June 2020 by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, National Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased by 9.70 percent over June 2020. The Urban CPI recorded an increase of 9.68 percent, while Rural CPI recorded an increase of 9.73 percent.

Top few commodities which showed an upward trend from the previous year i.e. June 2020 include eggs (32.88 percent), mustard oil (32.34 percent), vegetable ghee (23.75 percent), condiments and spices (23.27 percent), cooking oil (21.93 percent), sugar (21.54 percent), tomatoes (19.67 percent), wheat (18.99 percent), meat (16.66 percent) and milk (14.19 percent).

Source: The News

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