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The Ministry of National Food Security and Research Tuesday launched the first ever National Food Security Policy (NFSP) aimed at alleviating poverty, eradicating hunger and promoting sustainable food production systems (crop, livestock and fisheries) by achieving an average growth rate of 4 percent per annum.
The federal cabinet had approved this policy about two months ago, but the government announced it just two days before the completion of its five years term. Minister for National Food Security and Research, Sikandar Hayat Bosan launched the policy at a press conference.
The policy document maintained that current procurement policy and support price of wheat should be revisited, and may be phased out gradually, identifying existing strategies that benefit small holders and most vulnerable. The support price for procurement of imported food crops such as pulses and oilseeds may be introduced to promote import substitution rather than subsidizing export of wheat, and sugar commodities.
The food policy envisages providing a mechanism to address all four components of food security including food availability, accessibility, utilization and stability. It also aims at making agriculture more productive, profitable, climate resilient, and competitive, he added.
The minister said food availability will be ensured through increase in production. He told that National Food Security Council is being set up under the chairmanship of the prime minister with the chief ministers and representatives from relevant government agencies to review the state of food security and take appropriate policy measures.
The comprehensive strategy and action plan for addressing the food security issues in collaboration with national and international partners are also being deliberated at the Ministry of National Food Security and Research, he added.
The federal minister said measures will be taken to improve farmers' access to quality inputs such as seed, fertilizers, pesticides, credit etc. Furthermore, he said improved farm techniques and good agriculture practices (GAP) will also be promoted and issues like land and water management will also be addressed.
He said the government has also formulated and formally launched the first ever water policy, which became especially important in wake of climate change and water shortage.
According to the policy framework, the research will also be one of priority areas to address the emerging challenges of climate change, water stress, pests, diseases and other challenges.
Under the policy framework, the federal and provincial governments would collaborate to harness best utilization of available resources to modernize agricultural production and improve accessibility of the people to food.
The accessibility of the food will be increased through market support initiatives and marginalized groups of the society will be addressed by launching programmes like national zero hunger programs.
Three significant aspects hampering the improvement in production of agriculture include development of resistant crop varieties, provision of quality seed and high input cost, and the government has already undertaken various measures in this regard including promulgation of Plant Breeders' Right Act, 2016, promulgation of Seed (amendment) Act 2015, and abolishing subsidy on fertilizer," Bosan added.
The minister said during previous years, the food crop availability remained in surplus and most of the crops were being exported.
He informed that Pakistan is producing seven million tons of rice out of which over three million tons are being exported. Similarly, he said potatoes and onions are also in surplus and the surplus crop is being sent to Central Asian and Middle Eastern Countries.
Responding to a question, the minister said currently there is an acute water shortage in the country and stressed the need to develop national consensus on building big water reservoirs to ensure water availability for human and agriculture uses.
He told that his ministry is specially focusing on the efficient use of irrigation system to ensure non-wastage of water.
To another question, Bosan said the Sugar Control Act is a provincial subject which needs to be reviewed and enforced to ensure that no sugar industry is built in the cotton growing areas. In this regard, he said he always voiced against the sugar mafia at various forums.
Regarding provision of relief to farmers during last five years, the minister said he made it possible to reduce the cost of production for agriculture produces by lowering price of urea fertilizer from Rs 1800 to Rs 1400 per bag, reducing the prices of pesticides and slashing tax duties on tractors and machineries from 17 percent to 5 percent. He further said GST has been slashed from 17 to 2 percent on fertilizer which reduced the fertilizer prices.
The federal government in collaboration with provincial governments is committed to ensure availability and access of the people of Pakistan to safe and nutritious food. The national food security is also considered as one of the important components of the national security.
Since creation of Pakistan, there has been no policy framework to address the challenges of national food security. The incumbent government focused on this issue and assigned priority to formulate a strategic policy framework in collaboration with the provincial governments, international organisations and other relevant stakeholders. This policy document will provide a mechanism to address all four components of food security including food availability, accessibility, utilization and stability, he added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2018

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