No immediate threat of food shortage: Fakhar Imam

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DNA

ISLAMABAD, JUL 17 – Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research, Fakhar Imam, has said that there is no immediate threat of food shortage in the country despite the ongoing locust attack and the prediction of surplus Monsoon rains.

However, the government is planning strategy for next year in view of declined agricultural production. Talking to VoA during an interview with Ali Furqan, the federal minister said that the Met office has predicted ten percent surplus rains during the monsoon season which may affect Khareef crop in the country as climate variations are causing a change in traditional monsoon rains every year.Fakhar informed that a strategy to deal with expected Monsoon rains and floods is also being discussed with provinces at national command and control centre.

He said, Ministry of Food in collaboration with National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) will make all-out efforts to save crops from rains and floods, saying, “We can make an estimate of threats like locust, rains and floods which can be prevented to some extent but complete protection is not possible for crops under the open sky.

”The minister said that the government is working on the crops insurance policy to make it easier to benefit the farmers.Pakistan Meteorological Department has predicted floods in country’s eastern rivers due to surplus monsoon rains from July to September this year and risk of urban flooding will persist in big cities.Pakistan’s Agriculture is facing attack of locust along with severe weather conditions while Met office has predicted that monsoon rains will provide ideal environment for the growth of locust.

Minister for Food Security said that fertilization of locust is a big threat for Paksitan’s agriculture and the government is working on preventive measures in collaboration with the provinces.He informed that locust stayed in Rajhistan desert last year due to untraditional rains in October and November and because of its fertilization in the desert it spread in such areas where it had never reached before. Although all provinces are affected by locust attack, but the damage remained below fifty percent in all areas.According to United Nations’ body for food security, if Pakistan’s 25% agricultural production is effected by locust, it can cause increase in prices of commodities along with five billion dollars loss to economy.Fakhar Imam told that the Prime Minister Imran Khan has announced national emergency and allocated 26 billion rupees to fight the locust attack.He said that federal and provincial governments are working to eliminate locust under a comprehensive strategy and trying to stop fertilization of locust with chemical spray by using three planes of ministry of food security along with five helicopter of Pakistan Army.The minister said that the government is buying 11 more planes to increase the spraying capacity as helicopters are being used in crops area whereas planes are being used in deserts.Pakistan’s agricultural land is under attack by locust nourished in Iran, Oman and African countries.Answering a question regarding the expected loss, the federal minister said that loss due to locust attack on agricultural land is being estimated as it has damaged crops in all the four provinces, and there is a risk of low production this year, however, there is no immediate danger of food shortage.According to official figures, fifty seven million acre area was affected by locust this year of which twenty three million acre was agricultural land.The minister for food security told that because of weather conditions causing unusual rains, wheat production target was not achieved this year due to which the government had allowed private sector to import wheat to overcome lack of 1.5 million ton.It is pertinent to mention here that Unites Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in a recent report has warned of food security crisis in Pakistan due to locust attack.The federal minister said that the government has approved subsidy of 50 billion rupees for agriculture including 37 billion rupees for provision of subsidized fertilizers to farmers.He further illustrated that agriculture is back bone of Pakistan’s economy and contributes 19.3 percent of GDP.He also informed that indirect contribution of agriculture in GDP also stands at 20 percent as 70-80% raw material of country’s industry also comes from agriculture.He said government has declared agriculture as its top priority because 42 percent of working population depends on agriculture sector which had been neglected for last 20 years.The minister said that his ministry is working on branding of agriculture commodities along with research and adaptation of modern techniques in farming.He told that brand act and seed act have been introduced after 20 years as there was no law earlier due to which India got registered Pakistani basmati rice.Moreover, he said that packaging standards of Pakistan’s fruits and agri-products are also being improved to help increase import of Pakistani products as well as to make these commodities cost-effective.