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KARACHI: Vice President of Pakistan Businesses Forum (PBF), Jahan Ara Watoo has said that this flooding coupled with an expected hike in price for raw materials has raised an alarm in the agriculture sector of Pakistan, depicting a bleak picture for the future of food security in the country.

The floods have caused a “humanitarian disaster of epic proportions”. This monsoon has left farmers in general jobless and women in particular, she said.

Jahan Ara said that farmers who travel long distances to agricultural jobs have lost those opportunities. Women’s mobility, particularly in rural Pakistan, is already difficult – and flooded roads adds to existing obstacles, leaving women facing a greater likelihood than men of losing their jobs.

She said the exact loss of livestock is not yet known. While most of the human population has been evacuated to relatively safer places, the majority of livestock were wiped away by the high velocity of water.

Crops in the flood affected regions have been destroyed. Farmers have suffered total loss in many cases. “Similarly true impact on agriculture yields will also not be known until the surviving crops if any re-emerge from accumulated rainwater”.

The regions most affected are rice and cotton growing areas of Sindh and South. Similarly mango orchards, red chilli farms of Sindh are also under the floods.

Similarly there is 85% loss in dates. The standing sugarcane crop has also suffered damage up to 7% due to floods, despite it being a high water-consuming crop, which shows the intensity of the disaster we are facing in the Sindh province, she said.

Rice and cotton crops are crucial for our economy. Rice grown in Sindh fetches over 50 percent of foreign exchange that we earn from export of rice. Cotton is the mainstay of our textile sector.

We were already producing less cotton than the requirement of our industry and consuming over $1.5 billion on its imports. Further cuts in cotton production would mean more dependence on imports at a time when we are short of foreign exchange, said the PBF leader.

Flood damages would create a cash crunch in our rural areas. Trade and industry look forward to rural areas after better harvests to dispose of their products. The demand from rural regions would be subdued this year, she said. “If policymakers of Pakistan want to meet future challenges of climate change they will have to make adaptive measures in agriculture”.

Jahan Ara also demanded from National Bank of Pakistan and Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL) to write off all agriculture loans in the province of Sindh and Balochistan on immediately bases for the 2021-2022 year. In this regard notifications must be issued on priority.

However, PBF Sindh Chapter Vice Chairman Syed Faheem Ali Shah said Pakistan’s economic recovery is facing new risks after the highest rainfall in at least three decades threatens a humanitarian crisis in the world’s fifth most populous nation.

Government must pre-empt the flooding and start 3-R activities of rescue, relief and rehabilitation for flood victims. It must put a ban on export of wheat and maintain strong checks on smuggling of food to neighbouring countries to save its population from hunger and avoid harrowing situation that may bring the country close to crisis beyond its control.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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