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Food Insecurity in Pakistan: An


Submitted To: Sir Anas Ali Rao

Submitted By: Ayesha Imran Malik
Aymen Ahmad
Sania Haider Shikoh

Introduction................................................................................................................. 2
Literature Review........................................................................................................ 3
FOOD INSECURITY: HOW EXTREME IS THE PROBLEM?.................................................4
Integrated Food Security Phase Classification...........................................................10
Factors perpetuating Food Insecurity........................................................................14
1) Rising Food Prices............................................................................................ 14
2) Aggregate Production versus Food availibilty..................................................15
3) Projected Food Demands Surpluses & Deficits..............................................17
4) Food Inflation-Issues With National Poverty Line..............................................18
5) Food Affordability............................................................................................. 21
6) Shortage of Water............................................................................................ 23
7) Pin-hole thinking.............................................................................................. 24
8) Green Revolution............................................................................................. 25
9) Poor Governance.............................................................................................. 26
9.1) Governmental Incompetence in face of Floods............................................26
9.2) Drought in Thar............................................................................................ 27

Lack of wheat storage capacity....................................................................28


Land Holding and Inequality.........................................................................28


Exploitation of Women.................................................................................. 29


Land Tenure and Sharecropping...................................................................30


Neglect of Agricultural Research...................................................................30


Legal Credit Procedures................................................................................ 31


Lack of Subsidies to Farmers........................................................................31

POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS..................................................................................... 32
CONCLUSION............................................................................................................. 35
Bibliography.............................................................................................................. 36

"Food Security is the people's right to define their own
policies and strategies for the sustainable production,
distribution and consumption of food that guarantees the
right to food for the entire population, on the basis of small













indigenous forms of agricultural production, marketing and

management of rural areas, in which women play a
fundamental role."

The World Food Summit held in 1996 defines food security as prevalent
when every individual every time has access to adequate, risk-free and
wholesome food for maintenance of a fit and energetic life (Report of the
World Food Summit, 1996). Food insecurity respectively would mean the lack
of it. The Summit also recognized food insecurity as a human rights issue and
ironically, a complex problem of access rather than production. The
computation of food insecurity is generally a derivative, based on food
balance sheets, national income distribution and consumers spending data
An FAO report (Patel, 2013) states food security to be composed of following
four factors:

Food Availability Adequate availability from domestic production,

net imports etc.

Food Access persons ability to buy food and to be able to procure

it through safety nets.

1 Final Declaration of World Forum on Food Sovereignty, 2001.


Food Utilization food provision, storage and usage, safety of food

and its nutritional content and dietary balance.

Food Vulnerability susceptibility of individuals to hunger because


physiological, economic, social or civic reasons.

Literature Review
Adequate literature has been produced on the topic of Food Insecurity in
Pakistan by various researchers and NGOs. M. Ahmad and U. Farooq in their
paper Food Security in Pakistan: Future Challenges and Coping Strategies
argue that instead of solely focusing on wheat-based food security, Pakistan
must adopt an all-inclusive policy to increase productivity of major crops as
well as livestock to achieve a pro-poor agricultural growth and reduce food
insecurity (Ahmad & Farooq, 2010). They maintain that in developing
countries like Pakistan, both supply and demand sides can pose as future
challenges to food insecurity and suggest a three-prong strategy to ease food
insecurity i.e., establish farm and non-farm sectors, decreasing diffraction
within agriculture by extending a helping hand to the ineffectual farmer or
helping him gain a livelihood in other sectors. They lament the lack of holistic
policy approach as a major constraint to achieving food security i.e.,
governmental intervention is only in a couple of commodities, deserting
others on the directions of market forces which result in asymmetry in supply
and demand of other goods as well. Structural changes and increased focus










The sudden and significant rise in food volatility in 2010-11 was mainly due
to speculative activities which were also responsible for the Global Food Crisis
in 2008. The commodity boom had dire consequences for economy and social
sector of South Asian countries, thus propagating further food insecurity (Dev
S. M., 2013). SAARC countries formed a food bank for meeting the

requirements of regional food security but it has proved to be redundant ever

since its formation. A rise in food prices increases child malnourishment by
putting a constraint on family budget.
A joint research paper by SDPI and WFP include food absorption in their
measure of food security across Pakistan (Pakistan Food Security Bulletin,
2013). Considering food absorption a function of sanitation, clean drinking
water and health care, it is concluded that effective food absorption occurs
only when the food consumed contributes towards good physical and
cognitive development. Food absorption capacity of the rural populace across
Pakistan has been measured. It is stated that a rural household spends 50%
on average of the monthly expenditure on securing food. Thus little remains
for health, education and other needs, putting rural poor in a disabling
environment. Access to economic opportunities and healthy life is impacted.
Another important element is that sowing food crops (wheat, rice) and cash
crops (sugar cane) have different effect on inequality in rural Pakistan. Sugar
Cane accounts for about 33- 37% of agricultural income inequality, as it stays
in the field all year round (Junejo, 2013). Small farmers who sow food crops to
feed their families are compelled not to grow sugar cane whereas past
government pricing policies make sugarcane an extremely profitable crop.
A combined research by SDPI and UNDP recommends rebuilding the food
market structure and up-gradation of the administration of food stocks.
Besides that, the goal of formation of safety nets for the already chronically
food insecure and governments attention on availability of affordable food is
advised. The report states that legislators focus should not be solely
confined to policies and laws for enhancement in food production rather
attention should also be given to measures that would ensure sustained
access to food and factors helpful in food absorption.
It is pertinent to mention here that development economists Amartya Sen
and Jean Dreze formed the theoretical foundations on the issue of food

security with Sen's Entitlement Theory2 and their joint researches like Hunger
and Public Action and The Political Economy of Hunger.


According to FAOs assessments, by 2010 Asia will be responsible for about
1/2 of the world's malnourished population. Two-thirds of it will originate from
South Asia (The State of Food Security in the World, 2012). Ending hunger by
2015 has been one of the MDGs, though the urgency of the threat of food
insecurity rose the more after Global Food Crises of 2008. The problem has
been recognized, talked about and written on extensively but has anything
substantial been done to eradicate hunger and food insecurity for the
underprivileged? Pakistan, the 6th most populous country with severe income
inequality was ranked on number 77 out of 109 index countries, just above
Ghana, according to the Global Food Security Index 3, confirming the claim
made by Jean-Luc Siblot that malnutrition in many areas of Pakistan is as
worse as in Africa.
The respective scores out of a total of 100 of Pakistan in the relevant
indicators are given below.






Availabilit Quality








In terms of affordability, Pakistan scores just 37.1 out of a total of 100,

highlighting how food inflation and rising food prices especially in the wake of
global food crisis of 2008 and extreme food inflation in 2011 have further
2 Sen (1981, p. 166) ends Poverty and Famines with his famous remark: The law stands between
food availability and food entitlement. Starvation deaths can react legality with a vengeance.

3 ; Retrieved: 12/22/2014.


contributed to prevalent food insecurity. Availability is also low with a score of

45.3/100 while the quality and food standards are shown to be relatively
better. Pakistan being an agrarian economy with a thriving rural population
should ideally have scored better in terms of food affordability and availability
compared to industrial countries but this does not seems to be the case.
According to WFP, in 2008, seventy-seven million Pakistanisapproximately
1/2 of Pakistans populationwere food insecure i.e., unsure where the next
meal would come from, a 28% rise from the 60 million figure of 2007
(Mussadaq, Below the line: Increasing poverty affecting 40% of population,
Let us analyse the trends in food availability and food prices over the last few
years. The pattern of food availability of the last 5 years is provided in table

It can be seen from the table above that the national food availability during
the fiscal year 2013-14, calculated using food balance sheets, has been
adequate with about 2450 calories per day per capita available for
consumption; the rise in the food availability per capita has been stable over
the last 5 years, while previously being volatile and showing a sudden dip
following the global food crisis in 2008. The availability of pulses saw a

decline from 6.7 kg/capita/annum in 2013 to 6.5 kg/capita/annum. The

decline was attributed to the heavy monsoon rains and floods which badly
affected the crop of gram pulse (channa), the main contributor in the output
of pulses. It is surprising how official figures do not at all reflect the dire
situation in terms of food security prevailing in our population both on a
calorie as well as nutritional level.
National figures talk about the aggregate production and do not expose the
real picture. Micro-level data paints an entirely different and dreary picture.
Results from a study on food security show how most of the districts in
Pakistan are food insecure (Pakistan Food Security Bulletin, 2013)
Exacerbating the problem is the extreme inequality in access and utilization
of food of poor or nutritionally deficient which is the dominant factor of
Pakistans food insecurity issue, in accordance with Sens theory of
It is relevant to mention here that crops and cereals production occurs mostly
in Punjab and Sindh. Baluchistan faces major hindrances in the sowing of crop
based food, owing to its terrain and climate. KP is mostly reliant on Punjab
and Sindh or import for availability of food as it harvests only 1.2 million tons
of wheat in face of a 3 million tons demand. (Muhammad Mudasser, 2001)
As a consequence of high food prices, the food consumption decreased as
average per capita/day calories intake estimated to be 1750kcal in 2004-05
reduced to 1700 calories/day in 2010-11.
A comparison of the expenditure on food as a percentage of total expenditure
for two time periods (2005-06 and 2010-11) is given in the table below. An
overall rise in the percentage expenditure on food can be seen in years 201011 compared to 2005-6 because of rising food prices. As shown, food
expenditure as a percent of total spending is maximum for the poorest

income quintile4, while the richest 20% spend relatively very less on
necessary food items. This is not essentially an admirable thing as it leaves
little income left for expenditure on health, education, clothing and other
basic necessities; as a result, the poor start to consume either less calories or
food that is nutritionally inadequate.

1 Source: SDPI Policy Review Food Security Special 2014

4 An income quintile separates population into 5 income quintiles (those with the
least income to those with the highest income) in a way that 20% of total
population is in each group.

2 Source: SDPI Policy Review Food Security Special 2014

Figure above shows that in total 82 districts are extremely deficient and 103
districts are simply deficient in terms of food availability. A mere 31 districts
are surplus whereas only 10 are sufficient in availability of food. Only the
situation in Punjab is satisfactory with about 21 food surplus districts. Baluchistan, AJK, FATA and GB have greatest number of food deficient districts.
Baluchistan has 22 extremely food deficient districts. In AJK, 10 districts come
under extremely deficient, and in GB, the number is 6. The percentage of
food insecure population of our provinces is given in table below with the
highest proportion in FATA, Baluchistan and KPK. Federal Capital and Punjab
witness the lowest percentage. While situation in FATA is made the worse by
the ongoing war on terror5, the other provinces are no better in terms of
vulnerability to food shocks and hunger.

5 See Government urged to suspend army operation for wheat harvest:

3 Source: SDPI Policy Review Food Security Special 2014

The national nutritional distribution paints a bleak picture of national food

security as well with more than half of population being deficient in iron and
Vitamin A. A significant 40% and 39% population faces a deficiency in Vitamin
D and Zinc (National Food and Nutrition Security Policy, 2012). Due to this
deficiency a huge number of people are facing problems of wasting i.e.,
smaller weight-for-height ratio and stunting i.e., low height-for-age ratio
than is considered normal (Pakistan Food Security Bulletin, 2013).
4Source: SDPI Policy Review Food Security Special 2014







Vitamin D




Vitamin A

% Deficient Population

The total undernourishment in 2004 given by FAO (2008) was about 24%worst in South Asia excluding Bangladesh and has been showing increases
with time. Micronutrient deficiency is also called as hidden hunger as it is a

combination of weak maternal health and nutrition and low micronutrient

content in body especially of iodine and zinc.

Source: Pakistan Economic Survey

The two important nutrition indicators for eradicating extreme poverty and
hunger are:
o Prevalence of under-weight children under five
o Ratio of population beneath minimum line




The country is off track of both of these two MDG targets as shown in the
table above. Though some improvement has been seen from 1990s onwards
with the percentage of underweight children (below the age of 5) dropping
from 40% to 31.5% in 2011-12, the achieved proportion is still way below the
target of 20%. Same is the case with the percentage of people beneath the
minimum level of dietary energy consumption. It was calculated last time in
2001 and came out to be 30%- seeing a 5% increase from the 1990s. The
figures paint a bleak picture stating that about 30% of our people cannot
afford to eat in such a way that fulfills their dietary needs and nutrition

Integrated Food Security Phase Classification


In order to tackle a nation-wide problem, mapping is an essential tool to

ascertain how resources should be deployed. Such is the rationale behind IPC
mapping, which is a part of food security information analysis undertaken by
FSAU. It classifies a nations districts into various phases on the basis of a
comprehensive set of indicators (including food price level, employment
opportunities, wage rates, disease coping strategies, etc.) and certain
thresholds (FAO, 2008). Following is a summarized description of the IPC
Table: The IPC scale
Brief Description
Generally Food
>80% of households can satisfy basic food needs.
Borderline Food

There is dietary diversity.

At least 20% of households face reduced food


consumption, which is just minimally adequate

(2100 kcal ppp/day). These households cannot meet
livelihoods and protection needs adequately.

Acute Food and

Underlying hindrances to food security.

10-15% acute malnutrition. Increasing epidemic

Livelihood Crisis

disease. Accelerating loss of access to livelihood


Acute malnutrition of >15%. Pandemic disease.


Severely low food accessibility (less than 2100 kcal


ppp/day). High intensity conflict.

Acute malnutrition of over 30%. Pandemic disease.

n Catastrophe

Large-scale destitution. Effectively complete loss of

livelihood access. Crude mortality rate of

Source: Integrated Food Security Classification, Technical Manual Version
1.1 (2009) by FAO/FSAU


Since 2012, it is calculated yearly for Pakistan (SDPI, 2012). As the map
shows, none of the districts in Pakistan are in Phase 5. The cities of Karachi
and Lahore have not been analyzed.
Based on the data provided by the Pilot IPC analysis, the following figure
illustrates, how much of the provincial population lies in the various phases.


Fig. Crosstabulation: Provinces with Phase Classification

Phase 1



Phase 2
Phase 3


Phase 4


As evident, 44% of the population is in Phase 1 and is generally food secure.

27% are in Phase 2, 22% are in Phase 3 and only 6% are in Phase 4. (See
Phase-wise, most of the food secure population is in Punjab (79.6%) while
most of the population facing Humanitarian Emergency lies in Sindh (60.7%).
Punjab and Khyber Pakthunkhwa are the only two provinces which are not
facing any level of Humanitarian crisis. On the other hand, in Balochistan,
FATA and Gilgit Baltistan, none of the population is generally food secure. The
situation is dire in Gilgit Baltistan (due to access problems) and FATA (due to
security issues), where over 80% population (respectively) falls under Phase
3 and Phase 4. In Balochistan, while only 13% is in Phase 4, most of the

population is highly vulnerable to Humanitarian Emergency, as a major 60%

of the population faces Acute Food and Livelihood Crisis. This is due to
The food security situation is quite dynamic. Comparison with the 2012 IPC
analysis of Pakistan shows that the food security situation has changed
overtime. The floods of September 2012, for example, had rendered 6
districts in Phase 4. The 2013 mapping revealed that 4 of these districts were
not in Phase 4 anymore, indicating improvement on account of humanitarian
assistance as well as resilience at household/community level. However, 2 of
the districts (Jacobabad and Kashmore) are still in Phase 4.

Factors perpetuating Food Insecurity

The causes of food insecurity are diverse, multi-faceted and interlinked and
go in a vicious cycle- one perpetuating the other.

1) Rising Food Prices

Pakistans food inflation rocketed to 34% in 2008. During the zenith of the
world food crisis, both consumers and food suppliers were in trouble with the
farmers having to face immense fertilizer costs; the price of DAP (Diammonium Phosphate) shot upwards by 150-300 percent, even though they
were subsidized by the government. The farmers had only two options left
i.e., either to reduce the usage of DAP or to shift to crops requiring little
fertilizer, being less profitable (Salam, 2012).


The figure above shows the trends of wheat prices internationally as well as
in Pakistan. It is obvious that the trends in wheat prices in Pakistan followed
the global pattern. The post-2008 commodity price inflation is shown by a
sudden increase in prices and with half of the food inflation caused by wheat
and allied products, meat, sugar and vegetables. The yearly trends in wheat
and rice production are shown in the graph below. Since the 1990s, we see an
increase of 1.5 fold in wheat production with fluctuations throughout.
Obviously the growth over the decade has not been a satisfactory one given
the manifold increase in population and hence the demand for wheat. Cash
crops like rice and sugar cane have never been given enough attention
either. As shown in the graph below, rice production has increased very
slightly over the decade. The focus on problems regarding production has not
produces results that fruitful while the more chronic ills of inequitable
distribution and access have yet to be considered.


Source: National Food Ministry

2) Aggregate Production versus Food availibilty

In aggregate, food production is quite substantial and has been seeing
improvement. Taking the example of wheat, the staple food of Pakistan, in
2013, it was estimated that the total national production of wheat was 24
million metric tonnes (MMT), compared to 23.4 MMT the previous year (VAM,
2013). However, it is accessibility of poor households to food which is the
main problem.
It is estimated that 300 6 grams of wheat per person per day is the minimum
adequate requirement in Pakistan. On basis of population and this figure,
annual demand is calculated. Total national production of wheat has often
been close to the annual estimated demand. However, geographic production
varies significantly amongst the provinces, as the figure below illustrates.
Table: Estimated wheat production per capita (2013) by provinces
6 Hina Nazli (PSSP Research fellow), interviewed by author, Islamabad, Pakistan, December 10, 2014.






production Threshold
High >145
Average 125-145


Low <100
Source: Food Security Bulletin, VAM-WFP Pakistan (2013)

As evident, while overall Pakistan has a high production of wheat, the KP,
Balochistan and Sindh provinces have a low wheat production, which cannot
meet their population needs adequately (VAM, 2013).
Another aspect of this is the Terms of Trade (ToT), which in the context of
food security is calculated as the Kgs of wheat that can be purchased by the
average daily wage of unskilled labor. This is an indicator of the purchasing
power parity for the poor. The analysis of ToT in 2013 by WFP shows shows a
decline. In June 2012, national average ToT was 13.6 Kgs. By June 2013, it
had dropped to 12.5 Kgs. However, there were geographic differences. For
example, a a comparison of major cities revealled the lowest ToT to be in
Multan and the highest to be in Lahore (VAM, 2013).
Stagnant or decreasing wage rates and rising food prices greatly limit the
accessibilty of poor households to food.

3) Projected Food Demands Surpluses & Deficits

A study by (Haider, Nazli, & Tariq, 2012) forecasts the demand for cereals in
Pakistan upto the year 2030. Expenditure elasticities for all staple foods were
estimated using GOP data. The demand for wheat was estimated to be least
responsive to expenditure changes, with expenditure elasticity of 0.58.
With the assumption that tastes and preferences as well as technological
trends remain the same across the period, and that population grows at a
constant rate of 2.45% per year , Haider et al made projections for the

surplus or deficit of wheat and rice under 3 scenarios; BAU(Business as Usual)

where per capita income is taken to be growing at 3% per yer, Pessimistic,
where is is taken as 2% and Optmisistic, where it is taken as 4%.

Table: Projections of surplus or deficit of wheat and rice in Pakistan (in

thousand tonnes)
Source: PSSP Working Paper No.005


As the table above shows, in all scenarios, the production of wheat is likely to
be in deficit and the production of rice is likely to be in surplus. In fact, the
surplus of rice is likely to grow overtime, just as the deficit of wheat is likely
to grow overtime, under all scenarios.
This indicates that the country would have to import large quanitites of wheat
over future years in order to cater to the growing demand for wheat.
However, if measures are taken to reduce population growth rate, technology
is improved and wheat production output is made more efficient, than this
deficit can be reduced. However, these projections rest entirely on the
assumptions and any change in the parameters can alter the situation
(Haider, Nazli, & Tariq, 2012). It is also acknowledged that the world food
price crisis of 2007-08 and consequent food price hikes may have led to


changes in consumption patterns, which may render these projcetions as

irrelevant. This needs to be investigated further (Malik, Nazli, & Whitney,

4) Food Inflation-Issues With National Poverty Line

Analysts at IFPRI argue that there is a discrepancy between the drastically
reducing poverty levels and the burgeoning food insecurity situation in the
country. For example,in the year 2008, Poverty Headcount Ratio at the
national poverty line was 22.3%7, whereas nearly 50%8 of the population
was declared food insecure that year. How can just over one-fifth of the
population be below the poverty line, when half of the population can not
even meet their food requirements?
(Malik, Nazli, Mehmood, & Shahzad, 2014) suggest that this is due to
employing the CPI to calculate the poverty line. The calculation of the index
itself, they state, is flawed.
The data is collected

at five year intervals by PBS via the Family Budget

Survey to collect information on consumption patterns.

12 commodity groups are determined and weights attached to each
depending upon the relative share of household budget spent on those
groups. The weight of the food group is highest at 34.83%. However, PBS
only collects this data from urban households. Additionally, PBS collects data
on prices from 40 urban centers by surveying 13 markets in each and
obtaining quotations.

7 Source: World Bank, Poverty Headcount Ratio at the National Poverty line (%), Pakistan
8 Maha Mussadaq, Below the Line: Increasing Poverty Affecting 40% Population, Says Report, The Express
Tribune, 22 January,2014, 1, accessed December 13, 2014,


(Malik, Nazli, & Whitney, 2014) identify numerous issues with the CPI
calculation. The difference between the consumption patterns prevailing in
urban and rural areas are not elucidated. As the rural areas are not
accounted for, in consequence, some of the weights applied to respective
commodity groups are overstated and some are understated. Furthermore,
the retail price differential between urban and rural areas is not taken into
consideration. The CPI is therefore, unrepresentative of the population of

Table: Average monthly consumption expenditure (PKR)

Source: PSSP Working Paper no.022 (Calculated from various
issues of HIES)

As the table illustrates, data from HIES shows that there is a persistent
differential between the consumption expenditure patterns of urban patterns
of urban and rural areas. Malik et al state that this could be due to two
reasons; either the rural population has a different consumption basket or
they face a different set of prices for the consumption basket than the urban
A comparison in the study between the food share in household budget
estimated by the Family Budget Survey 2007-08 and the HIES 2007-08 data,
shows that food shares are underestimated. The Family Budget Survey
estimates it at 35%. On the other hand, according to HIES data, it is 45 % on
average, with 37% in urban households and 51% in rural households. This
shows that the average food share is underestimated by 10% and it further
highlights the differences in food shares between urban and rural areas. In
turn, the CPI may also be underestimated.

These flaws in the CPI calculation lead to flaws in the national poverty line as
well, which is calculated by the government using the CPI. Pakistans national
poverty line was estimated in 2001-02 from HIES data of 1998-99. This line
has since been extrapolated by CPI based adjustments for the subsequent
years. A study by Malik et al (2014) used survey data from HIES 2010-11. The
study identified the flaws of the poverty line thus calculated and its
implications in the context of food security.
Firstly, the sampling frames of the HIES and therefore the national poverty
line are obsolete.

The HIES poses the problem of under-coverage of the

population, hindering the representativeness of the sampling frames.

Secondly, price fluctuations have been empirically shown to lead to changes
in consumption patterns, which are not wholly reflected in the CPI and
therefore not factored in poverty measurement.
In 2011, GOP used the prices of essential food items reported by PBS and
data on consumption in the HIES of 2007-08, to calculate the cost of a








vegetables, sugars, oils and fats. It has been observed that the cost of this
consumption bundle has increased by 67% in the period 2007-2011. On the
other hand, with 2007-08 as the base year, the Economic Survey 2013-14
reports that the value of CPI for 2010-11 was 146, indicating only a 46%
increase in the cost of the bundle since 2007-08. This clearly shows that the
CPI is not accurately presenting the real rising cost of the consumption
The table below shows that average per capita/day calorie intake is 2,263,
which is lower than the 2,350 threshold prescribed initially by the Planning
Commission. The study by Malik et al divided the population into quartiles,
ranked them on income shares and then calculated the per capita/day calorie
consumption for each quartile. About half of the households consume less
than the prescribed calories, whereas, the top 50% of the population

consume more than the threshold. Compared to the bottom quartile, the 3rd
quartile, on average, spends approximately 79% more on food per month and
the 4th quartile spends 162% more. This reflects not only the pronounced
differences in food consumption across income groups in Pakistan, but also in
the quality of food that the groups can afford (an indication of hidden hungerSee 2.2).
Table: HH size & Consumption Expenditure, Food expenditure and
Calories (per person/day)
Quarti HH
HH Consumption

HH Food
































Source: PSSP Working Paper 026 (Computed from HIES 2010-11)

Using HIES 2010-11 data, Malik et al also found that across the whole country
in general, households mostly fulfill their caloric requirement through the
consumption of wheat, milk, milk products, oils, fats, and sugar. On the other
hand, the bottom quartile houses mostly consume wheat, and oils & fats and
less of meat, milk, and vegetables as compared to the other quartiles. This
shows that consumption baskets vary significantly across quartiles.
The research by PSSP has also shown that the consumption baskets vary
across rural/urban areas as well as provinces. Hence, the use of one basket

as representative of the whole country can give misleading poverty estimates

(Malik, Nazli, & Whitney, 2014).

5) Food Affordability
In the period 2000 to 2009, the prices of most food items in Pakistan
increased by over 100%. As the GOP reported, for example, the price of
wheat saw a 162% increase, rice of 207 % and ghee of 147%. Assuming that
in Pakistan, a large proportion of household budget is spent on food, a rise in
food prices may force individuals to compromise their nonfood consumption
and shift it towards food. This lack of affordability can also result in hidden
hunger, which is a micronutrient deficiency. This may lead to ill health and
stunted growth, but as the effects do not manifest immediately, this problem
goes ignored and is difficult to observe and measure. 9 Due to high prices and
low wages, the poor often resort to low quality food or empty calories such as
those given by staples and less of nutrient rich food like meat and vegtables.
The GOP then determined a consumption bundle in accordance with the 2150
calories per day threshold, which comprises of cereals, pulses, milk, meat,
oils, fats, sweetener, fruits and vegetables.
The table below shows the recommended and the actual consumption of
these bundle items.

Table: Recommended and actual consumption

Actual consumption (kg/person/month)
Recommende 2001- 2004- 2005- 2007- 2010-



d qty





















Fats and


































Source: PSSP Working Paper 026 (Compiled from GOP and various HIES
The evidence shows that cereal and pulses consumption has declined over
the years, whereas the consumption of milk, meat, oils, fats and vegetables
has increased. A change in the consumption pattern can be seen, especially
in the 11% decrease in calories per day. Compared to the recommended
intake, the population is on average consuming much less of the required
foods and quite below the 2,150 threshold (which, as aforementioned, itself is
quite low by international standards). Market prices of essential food items
have increased significantly over the years, rendering a major proportion of
the population unable to meet their food requirements (Malik, Nazli, &
Whitney, 2014).


6) Shortage of Water
Due to rising population of our country, per capita water has been dwindling,
reaching 1,038m3 in 2010 (WAPDA, 2009), only slightly over the 1,000m3 per
person threshold under the global criteria, designating Pakistan as a waterstressed country and highlighting the widening gap between the demand
and availability of water in the country. As obvious from persistent periods of
heavy rains and destructive floods for the 4 th consecutive year, Pakistan is
facing the adverse results of climate change including extreme hazards to
agriculture and water resources. Resultantly, the countrys status as an
agricultural economy has become vulnerable to capricious climate changes.
The aberrations consist of hotter summers, earlier cold spell, erratic
monsoons, rainfall that is unforeseen with increasing prevalence and higher
level of floods. Ironically, while there is abundance of destructive water in the
monsoon, a shortage of water in the Rabi and early Kharif period.
Due to its arid to semi-arid climate, water is the single most constraining
factor to Pakistani agriculture. About 80% of crop value is obtained from
irrigated agriculture (Zhu, Xie, Waqas, & Mohsin, 2014). Demand for water is








development. Moreover, water resources are threatened by drought and longterm climate change through its effect on temperature, precipitation, and
glacier runoff. Even without climate change, Pakistan is expected to become
a more significant net food importer over time, due to a combination of
moderate growth in agricultural production and growing water scarcity in the
face of rapid population growth. Importantly, Pakistans trade position will
further deteriorate with climate change, as net cereal imports rise by 55
percent to 100 percent, depending on the scenario, compared to a situation
without climate change. (Zhu, Xie, Waqas, & Mohsin, 2014)

7) Pin-hole thinking
In the years following independence the countrys crop mix gave coarse

grains some importance. But in the early 1960s, wheat became Pakistans
major staple crop, and has stayed so till today. Coarse grains (like sorghum
and millet) and pulses are urgent requirements of local populations in
underdeveloped parts of Baluchistan province and NWFP (Altaf, 2010). The
difference in carbohydrate content in per gram of wheat (cooked) and grains
(corn) is given in comparison chart below (Ulmer, 2014). Containing about 2
times more carbohydrates, the over-emphasis of our agricultural policy on
wheat production and dismissal of other pulses and legumes further
perpetuates the food insecurity of the people in Pakistan.

% Carbohydrates per gram



tes per


Wheat, cooked

Pulses production in Pakistan dropped from 836000 tons in 1973 to 614000

tons in 1994-95 (Mubarik Ali, 1997). Besides pushing pulses cultivation to
marginal lands, food legumes and introduction of high yielding varieties of
cereals during late 1960s and 1970s by policy formulators reduced their
yield. Diminishing trends in pulses production together with the rise in
population in the country caused domestic annual per capita production of
the legumes to fall from 9.5 kg to 3.4 kg during the period (Ali & Abedullah,
1998). Pulses prices shot up as compared to that of wheat and other food
items. This badly affects the poor whose protein consumption depends solely
on legumes and pulses as they do not have enough financial capabilities to
buy expensive livestock-based protein-rich food. In an unsuccessful bid to
stop this decline, a significant spending of Foreign Exchange by the
government is required on the pulses imports, which has steadily increased

from nil in 1975 to 254000 in 1993 (Ali & Abedullah, 1998).

8) Green Revolution
The Green Revolution was a period (1967 onwards) in which Pakistan, and
many other South Asian countries, began using high-yield variety (HYV) seeds
and other technological advances in agriculture in order to quickly increase in
food production (Burki, 1999). HYV seeds promote mass production of crops
through higher yields than normal seeds. Inputs such as fertilizer and
pesticides are integral to their performance. The Green Revolution played its
due part in increasing food production. The new technology used required the
appropriate application of a combination of HYV seeds, chemical fertilizers
and water. This implies that well-off farmers who had the finances to ensure
the right quantities of input assortment and its timely application could
achieve greater cropping intensity along with higher yields per acre
compared to poorer farmers (Hussain, 2012). The new HYV seeds were
formed on the movement of genetic diversity and were not well fitted to the
microbiology of local soils thus they were susceptible to more pest attacks
compared to the domestic varieties thereby, prompting an increased
pesticide use. Recent evidence points out that soil degradation resulting from
erroneous agricultural practices after Green Revolution is a major reason for
decline in the yield response to input use in Pakistan.

9) Poor Governance
9.1) Governmental Incompetence in face of Floods
Pakistan has experienced 22 floods up till now , each causing havoc and
devastation to its economy and afflicting huge losses to human lives,
livestock, crops and infrastructure but has the government foreseen the
troubles ever and took any substantive step to battle and channel these
floods? The answer is plain and simple no. Avoiding natural calamities is not
under our control but formation of policies and practices to prevent them

from turning into human disasters surely is. Given below is a table with
estimated costs of reconstruction and damages caused by floods of 2010.

An estimated two million hectares of standing crops was destroyed and over
1.2 million livestock expired due to floods. According to the table above, most
damages were caused in the province of Sindh, Panjab and KP with the total
damages worth 855 billion rupees. Of course, the amount spent on
reconstruction works cannot match the estimated damages and is much less
i.e., 578 billion rupees. Pakistan- already in need of improvement in
infrastructure faces further damage and deterioration in its infrastructural
Price increases combined with floods resulted in an increase of the food gap
from 3.96 to 6.20m tons of wheat nationwide if we use the minimum
requirement of 2350 kilo calories (kcal) per adult a day.
9.2) Drought in Thar
It is lamentable that on one hand floods- surplus of water is wreaking havoc
in Punjab and GB while on other hand, draught and water shortage is
claiming lives in Thar- the lowest ranking district of Pakistan on the Human
Development Indicators (Suleri, Plan for Thar, 2014). This contrast shows the
apathy of governmental and administrative bodies towards the phenomenon
of food insecurity. Thar is seeing large scale migrations of various groups.

Earlier, Tharis did migrate to barrages to work as farm-labour during Kharif

season and sowing of Rabi crops season annually but only on a limited scale.
Current migration is the result of drought that is visiting Thar- a region which
didnt get required rainfall since 2012. According to estimates, starvation in
Thar has caused death of about 300 children thus (AFP, 2014).
Despite Thar being the constituency of a former chief minister (Arbab Ghulam
Rahim) and a former prime minister (Shaukat Aziz), there is no respite for
Thari voters from their woes of food insecurity. The Revenue Department
would declare Thar a calamity-hit area when it wouldnt get about 300mm of
rain by August. In 2013, it rained only 5-7% of 300mm (Suleri, Averting
disaster, 2014). Neither was there any subsequent rain in September,
October and November. The cattle started expiring due to a lack of fodder
and water but a state of confusion on part of our institutions was rampant.
Draught was announced only in March and not because the government
realized its laziness but because the media started highlighting the deaths of
children, pneumonia and famine. Instead of taking measures to avert this
disaster, a blame game ensued between federal and provincial governments.
Ironically, while the children were dying of hunger in Thar, the provincial
government of PPP was busy organizing and celebrating the Sindh Festival.

Among the other instances of poor governance, there is the issue of

smuggling of wheat across border as well. Many observers contend that
smuggling has persisted (one estimate concludes that Pakistan is losing $2
billion a year through the smuggling of wheat to Afghanistan) (Malik, Food
Supply Challenges and Implications, 2010), while others allege that flour and
sugar millers, who are politically connected most of the times, are hoarding
supplies to drive up prices artificially- an issue which does unchecked by


Lack of wheat storage capacity

According to State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Pakistans 10 to 35 percent of


agriculture produce perishes annually because of post-harvest losses

(Dilawar, 2014). The method of storing seed in store houses, bulks and
bundles should be in a way that their food and seedling value remains
preserved. For this to be achieved, they need certain conditions like
oxygenation, fumigation, a certain level of temperature and humidity etc. The
goal of storing seeds is to preserve planting stocks until the next season.
Storage issues are as follows:

Dirty storage spaces.

Bad ventilation with damaged and sodden store houses.
Low capacity
Use of domestic Mud-bins for storage.
Easy prey to insect pests, rodents and birds.
Use of old sacks.
Stockpiling in open bundles and heaps.
Spider webs and weeds in stores.
High temperature
Large impurities mixed with seeds (e.g., dead bodies of insects and
fungus, weeds, dirt etc.).

Land Holding and Inequality

A significant reason of the large percentage of rural farm and non-farm poor
in our country is the prevalent inequitable distribution of land. Going by the
Agricultural Census of 2000, just 37% of rural households had land in their
name with about 61% of these land-owning households having lesser than
five acres, in other words 15% of the total land available. Access to clean
water is inequitable, being a major cause of lower productivity in the barani
areas relative to irrigated land (Arif, 2007) .As a result of this erroneous
distribution of ownership and access to productive assets, most of the direct
gains in income from crop production are generated for higher income
In agricultural countries, access to land is a basic means whereby the
deprived can ensure household food supplies and income. Buyers of
commodities desire dealing with a small number of larger suppliers as this

ensures lower transaction costs associated with handling crops produced by a

larger amount of individual farmers which leaves them the less profitable
local market outlets. Domestic markets where local produce is in competition
with exported food grains are also in trouble, as the exported produce is often
subsidised from countries with surplus stocks. However, small farmers may
also join together to store, grade and sell their crops to acquire access to
large buyers.
The urban poor depend on food markets and this fact is known and
documented but dependence of most of rural food insecure among landless,
small farmers classes is rarely recognized. Besides landless rural inhabitants,
more than 30% of the cultivators are net buyers of food staplesaccounting
62% of the partially or wholly reliant on market for food needs (Cotula,
Toulmin, & Quan, 2006).


Exploitation of Women

Rural women are unable to fulfill their appetites most of the times in spite of
doing major work to grow food to feed their families. Besides that, they rarely
own any land. Being active economic agents practicing agriculture as farmers
and as farm workers, they play an important role as far as household food
security is concerned; sadly they themselves enjoy limited rights to land.
Moreover, women have the tendency to stay focused in the informal
economy. In harvesting seasons, they often provide farm-labour without
employment contracts, on a temporary basis or as relatives of male farm
workers (Cotula, Toulmin, & Quan, 2006).
A mother with nutritional deficiencies gives birth to an underweight baby,
who grows up to be stunted with frequent illnesses, learning disabilities, and
weak immune system. This gives rise to a vicious cycle of poverty and food



Land Tenure and Sharecropping

The customary land tenure systems are usually referred to even when they
are not consistent with legislation, being more reachable to rural population.
Resultantly, more than one legal systems statutory, customary and
combinations of both exist side by side in the same territory, causing
overlapping rights, conflicting rules and competing authorities. This creates








agricultural investment and lets the powerful grab common lands. Land
tenure security is the degree of certainty about not being promptly
deprived of the land rights enjoyed or of the economic benefits derived from
them. It consists of both objective components (clarity, duration and
enforceability of the rights) as well as subjective components (landholders
perception of the security of their rights) (Cotula, Toulmin, & Quan, 2006).
Sharecropping is the practiced tradition of land rental in developing
countries. It has been widely debated upon both by economists, for being
less efficient than cash rental contracts, and by campaigners for social
justice, for being exploitative. In spite of that, while effort supplied and
intensity of input use may be higher under fixed rental contracts, under
uncertain seasonal farming conditions, and with limitations on working capital
and access to credit, shared tenancy is a favorable choice for renters and
reduces uncertainty for them as well as for zamin-daars. Thus sharecropping
is widely prevalent especially in Sindh as a result of highly skewed landdistribution. (Anwar, Qureshi, & Ali, 2003)


Neglect of Agricultural Research

About 21.5% of our GDP is attributable to agriculture- the second-largest

sector of our economy. Being the major source of employment, it was
responsible for 24.26 million of the 53.82 million people employed in 2010.
About 60 to 65% contribution to the foreign exchange earnings comes from
the agricultural sector. Approximately, 68 percent of the rural population


seeks livelihood in agricultural sector and provides markets with the goods
and services for other sectors with key inputs.
Aggregate expenditure on agricultural R&D in the public sector was about
$223 million in 1991, in terms of 2005 dollars. This reduced to $171 million in
2002. Public-sector spending on R&D for agriculture fell by 23 percent in
Pakistan while it was predicted to have increased by 31, 35, 82, 87, and 119
percent in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, and China respectively.
Agricultural scientists, estimated at 66 per million of population in 1973, had
declined to 44 per million in 1988 and to 24 per million in 2010. The work of
the agriculture sector has been impacted adversely because of this and the
growth rate in agriculture during the 1980s, which averaged 5.4 percent per
year, declined to 4.4 percent in the 1990s and 3.2 percent in the first decade
of the 21st century (Salam, 2012).


Legal Credit Procedures

It was estimated that only 47% of credit requirements in agricultural sector in

2009-10 were satisfied by institutional credit. Regional and sub-regional
discrepancies also disturb the credit distribution in agriculture. Out of 7,015
bank branches, only 4,058 are earmarked for agricultural credit with just 46
percent of these situated in urban centers. (Salam, 2012) Commercial banks
are hesitant to lend to agriculture perhaps due to the high incidence of
nonperforming loans in the sector. So to reduce their risk, bank loans make
use of excessive paperwork, pledging of collateral, and other taxing
procedures which result in high transaction costs for farmers discouraging
them from seeking bank loans. The farmers turn to private money lenders
who charge extremely high interest rates to the smaller farmers and grab
their lands in case of default.


Lack of Subsidies to Farmers

World Trade Organizations Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) states that any

distortion in trade must be eliminated so it was decided that developed

countries will cut subsidies by 25% by 2000. This did not happen and instead
of reducing subsidies they have actually increased them. WTO Agreement on
Agriculture (AoA) has affected adversely Pakistans agriculture sector
because of various clauses incorporated in the AoA. In fact in spite of many
restricted clauses in agreement on agriculture, Pakistan is unable to provide
any crutches to its agriculture sector, compared with other developing and
developed countries. Thus, EU and US farmers continue to thrive on
subsidizes. (Dev M. , 2013) This encourages over-production and much of the
additional produce is then dumped i.e., sold below the cost of production to
the developing countries.
This causes the domestic market prices to fall and makes it difficult for our
farmers to compete. Effect of subsidies in developed countries on Consumer
Prices and Food Security is devastating as low imported staple food prices
also depress the livelihoods of local farmers. This results in an increased
reliance on imports for national food security and larger susceptibility to
world price increases and exchange rate volatilities. The cheap supplies may
finish any time, and domestic agriculture destroyed by dumping is in an
uncertain position to produce once more for local markets.


There is a need to diversify income generating sources for poor

especially by shifting focus from the monoculture of wheat production
to short-term cash crops like edible oils, maize, pulses and vegetables
that can be consumed by the growers themselves, instead of being
purchased on high prices from market.

Proper credit policies should be formulated that include simple

procedures and assistance for rural farmers to attain loans for both
farm and non-farm activities. The government of Bangladesh has been
successful in maximizing the returns for the poor, especially women,

through affective training and monitoring of the beneficiaries in an

impressive poverty alleviation program Microfinance for the Ultra Poor
(United Nations Millennium Campaign, 2010)

As about 15% of milk production is lost due to inefficient storage

capacities and collection systems, therefore policies for increasing
returns from livestock sector should be formulated (National Food and








production in Sindh and Punjab areas while rearing cattle in the

mountainous regions of Balochistan and KPK, is required as a direct
means to tackle the food security crisis in Pakistan.

The Devolution Plan 2001 failed to empower the poor due to

bureaucratic inefficiencies, thus there is a dire need to remove
administrative constraints in order to strengthen local people and
providing safety nets to the vulnerable.

Water levels are lowering at an increasing rate in all provinces

especially in Balochistan, where groundwater is pumped using tube
wells. Integrated water management approach must be implemented
on immediate basis that encompasses proper lining of the water ways,
introducing sprinkler and drip processes and construction of small to
medium dams.

Prompt steps ought to be taken to make use of new lands for

agriculture. Presently, around 4 million sections of land in the river belt
of the nation could be disseminated among nearby landless poor. These
are virgin terrains where there is no deficiency of dampness. (Arif,
2007) Initiating targeted agriculture research in collaboration with
foreign institutes in order to maximize the use of modern technology.
Special emphasis should be given to bio-tech research, developing heat


resistant varieties of seed, providing post-harvest handling techniques,

solving water logging and salinity and pest control.

Joint public and private investment is required in establishing grain

storage facilities extensively near farm lands and urban areas to
prevent the excessive spoilage.

Government with collaboration of FAO must extend the Farmer Field

Schools Program of South East Asia to address ignorant farm practices
in Pakistan. The successful implementation of FFS in 12 countries of
Asia including neighboring India and Bangladesh presents a strong case
for extending the program to Pakistan. (FAO, 2002)These schools will
prove beneficial to farmers by teaching them adequate pesticide and
fertilizer usage in wake of Green Revolution, provide them experiential
participatory learning by building their farming techniques to maximize
the healthy yields. Thus empowering the farmers especially the women
to create





provision of

agriculture extension services

The Agreement on Agriculture must be challenged in WTO due to its

biased approach that has led many developing countries like Pakistan
to suffer. Pakistan can in fact join hands with India that is out rightly
challenging the developed world and providing large input subsidizes to
its farmers in its fight against food security. (Live Mint, 2014)

On one hand, plans for integrated water management and flood

monitoring stations must be implemented to stop the floods from
recurring; preventing forest degradation and soil erosion lies in the
heart of policies to prevent floods from occurring as thick forests act as
sponges to absorb floodwater. While on other hand, government has to
put in place effective post disaster strategies to cope with floods and
droughts in case they occur again. The introduction of aquifer storage

and recovery is imperative, whereby floodwater is stored underground

to be during times of water scarcity. This methodology has benefitted
India in effectively using floodwater (Abbasi) . Also, Pakistan need to
learn from the success story of flood prone Bangladesh that has made
flood management task a participatory one, by preparing locals
beforehand to deal with floods (Hossain, 2003) . Thus solution lies in a
proactive approach rather than a reactive one.

As aforementioned, revision of official inflation/poverty measures in

accordance with disaggregated data (on basis of province and
residence) is paramount. The CPI is unrepresentative of the rural
population, which should be factored in. Consumption baskets vary
across rural/urban areas as well as provinces. Ergo, the use of one
basket as representative of the whole country presents an inaccurate
picture of poverty and consequently food insecurity. Effective policies
cannot be crafted if the national estimates are flawed. There should be
separate poverty thresholds for the rural/urban areas within the

Furthermore, the possible implications of the food price hikes (2006-08)

on consumption behavior should be thoroughly investigated.

As evident from the IPC classification of 2012 and 2013 for the county,
humanitarian assistance has proven to be effective in lifting districts
out of the emergency phase, in the face of natural disasters. According
to the Livelihood Recovery Appraisal (FSC, 2013), a survey of the flood
affected districts of Sindh and Balochistan (provinces extremely
vulnerable to climate change) reveal food insecurity to be the most
pressing issue, which can be the onset to indebtedness and irreversible
coping strategies. Cash transfers have proven to be helpful in the initial
phase, such as the Watan Cash Scheme which posed relatively fewer
issues with targeting as most of the targeted population possesses

CNICs. It has the most expansive coverage, which should be fortified.

Simultaneously, Cash for Work programs, such as those that focus on
the refurbishment of society/community assets (for e.g. irrigation
mechanisms), have proven to be effective in addressing the food
insecurity situation in these areas, as they provide income generation
opportunities to flood affected households, thereby increasing their
access to essential food items.

For households that rely on agriculture for income, access to seeds,

fertilizer and other necessary equipment can be enhanced through
vouchers and government subsidy programs.

In order to implement these measures on the required scale, it is

necessary that humanitarian agencies such as Food Security Cluster
collaborate with provincial and district level disaster risk management

This is high time for government to make food security agenda a top national
priority, policies are in shape while the will to implement them in letter and
spirit is lacking. Materialization of The National Zero Hunger Program
launched in 2012 that includes a comprehensive strategy plan to eliminate
food insecurity in Pakistan is imperative.

Providing food security and eradicating hunger comprises one of the targets
of Millennium Development Goals that Pakistan declared to achieve by 2015.
Currently, this goal

appears too far away as Pakistan is off-track on all

nutrition indicators. The undertaken analysis focuses on factors that are

responsible for the continual food insecurity, sabotaging the little if any,
attempts to eradicate hunger and food insecurity. The factors include the

extreme volatility of farm input and output prices, continuously depleting

water resources, faulty

calculations of poverty head count, lack


diversification in farm produce, insufficient credit and subsidies to farmers,

unequal land tenancy systems and gender disparities etc.
On one hand, the government is putting little effort to resolve the food
accessibility issues, while on other, the crisis is exacerbated due to our lazy
obstinacy in face of frequent droughts and floods, resulting in daily deaths of
children in Tharparkar and floods wreaking devastating in almost half of the
country. By virtue of the inaction of governmental bodies, natural calamities









empowerment through reorganization of farmers, investments in skill

development, agriculture and water research, land reforms but most of all in
the removal of governmental mismanagement and apathy in tackling the
issue of food insecurity despite the formulation of ministry of National Food
Security and Research in Pakistan- a white elephant to say the least.

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