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Food insecurity looms over Pakistan, says daily

Pakistan,Business/Economy, Tue, 17 Apr 2012 IANS

Islamabad, April 17 (IANS) A lot of Pakistanis are going to be hungry for years to come, warned a daily while describing the situation as "desperate".


An editorial in the News International Tuesday said: " 'Food insecurity' is one of those polite and politically correct ways of saying something deeply unpleasant that is common in the argot of aid and development."


"It means that you don't know where your next meal is coming from - a condition that may last a day or so - or for months and years. In the former you experience the short-term anxiety and hunger that comes with being without food for a day or so, in the latter you are probably half-starved, depressed and listless, disease-prone, jobless and with scant prospect of work in the future," it said.


The State Bank of Pakistan has issued a report on national food insecurity, and it "makes unhappy reading".


The daily pointed out that the problem of food insecurity is "not ours alone, there are many other countries where it is a feature of life for much of their population, but ours is one of the more desperate cases".


It said the main cause of food insecurity is the unequal distribution of land.


The other factors are "a lack of constitutional rights for peasants closely allied to an enduring and durable feudal system; coupled with inefficient farming methods and an increasing scarcity of water".


Agriculture is the backbone of Pakistan's economy, contributing a quarter of GDP and about 44 percent of total employment.


"About 67 percent of the rural population is directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods. Set against this a population growth rate 2.23 percent and it is not difficult to read the recipe for hunger," said the daily.


The editorial went on to say that though the staple food is wheat, its "production has been stagnant at about 2,400 kg per hectare for a decade".


The central bank report makes it clear that a majority of the rural population is now food-insecure for at least a part of every year.


"In urban areas the picture is no better, and the report quotes a World Food Programme survey that says of the 56 million living in urban areas about 21 million are now food-insecure," said the daily.


Stating that there are no quick fixes, the editorial said: "...a lot of people are going to be hungry for years to come, but we can mitigate the worst effects by better coordination and planning - good governance, as it is called. Whether we will is far less certain".


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