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KARACHI: Pakistan Business Forum (PBF) says in developing nations like Pakistan, food security is a major concern. With a population of more than 200 million and an annual growth rate of 3%, it ranks sixth in the world. As a result, demand for food is constantly rising.

PBF Vice President, Jahanara Wattoo said more than 48% of the population of Pakistan is food insecure, according to the World Food Programme. Food insecurity is highest in the former Fata (67.7%), closely followed by Balochistan (61.2%) and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), where it is highest at 56.22%.

Pakistan is one of the nations most impacted by climate change. The floods have cleared out numerous agrarian yields and impacted the accessibility and supply of different vegetables, leafy foods staple harvests. During the current fiscal year, Pakistan has had to import a number of essential foods from other nations.

Jahanara Wattoo said country’s import bill is increasing as a result of currency fluctuations and economic decline, which has resulted in an unnatural rise in food prices and significantly reduced access to fresh and healthy food. The situation is expected to get worse over the next few years.

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) discovered severe food insecurity in 10 Pakistani districts necessitating immediate action, and crisis-level food insecurity in 28 other districts.

Food insecurity has also been severe in the Thar region of Sindh due to the ongoing drought. In a similar vein, Pakistan’s analysis of its food security reveals an alarming situation: The availability of food for residents of 56 districts is extremely limited.

She further said over seventy percent of the population is either directly or indirectly involved in the 22 million hectare agriculture industry. Only 6% of the total land under cultivation is dedicated to horticultural crops, 3.5% to fruits, 2% to vegetables, and 0.5 percent to ornamental plants. Out of the total area planted with vegetables, potatoes make up 17%, chillies make up 15%, onions make up 12%, and 30 different kinds of vegetables make up the rest.

PBF Chairman (Sindh) Mir Murad Ali Talpur said Pakistan has the potential to grow a wide range of crops because of its diverse climate. The emphasis has stayed on the development of staple food and a large portion of the developed region is covered by grains or money crops.

Climate change and unpredictability caused by natural disasters (rain, cold, drought, and heat) have a negative impact on conventional agricultural cropping patterns.

With an intensive farming pattern, horticulture is relatively manageable and productive, particularly for geo-sensitive regions and farmers with small landholdings. When compared to conventional crops, farmers’ net returns per unit of land area are significantly higher, and it can provide substantial income to farmers facing economic risk.

Similarly Urban and peri-urban horticulture (UPH) must be considered an essential component of the agricultural production system in order to meet the ever-increasing food demand of urban areas, with an emphasis on creating employment, food security, and income for the poor in urban areas.

The way people eat fruits and vegetables will change as a result of the cultivation of horticultural crops in urban and peri-urban areas. This will lessen our reliance on conventional agricultural produce, guarantee high-quality food, and boost producers’ profits.

Because horticultural products are highly perishable, improved infrastructure, storage facilities, an effective transportation system, and an effective distribution system are required to guarantee supply freshness and quality for urban areas. This will increase the cost to end users.

However, by introducing technologies that individual families can manage, UPH can provide the opportunity closer to consumption areas.

Supply chain management is required for each horticultural product. Quality isn’t good because of conventional farming, using too many inputs, and problems before and after harvest.

As a result, new horticultural technologies like integrated disease and pest management, organic cultivation using biological resources, kitchen gardening, minimal or zero tillage, high-density planting, bio-fertilization, fertigation, drip irrigation, protected cultivation like greenhouses and tunnels, and the use of hybrid seeds and improved cultivars can significantly boost Pakistan’s fruit and vegetable production.

If you look at the price and production statistics from a few years ago, you can see that certain horticultural products have higher prices during a specific time of year when the demand and supply balance is off because of low or absent production.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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