Stability in the food market depends on increased investment in agriculture, particularly in developing countries, where 98 per cent of the hungry live and where food production needs to double by 2050 to feed growing populations.
The facts were shared at an event organised to commemorate the World Food Day 2011 under the global theme Food Prices: From Crisis to Stability. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC) jointly organised the event at the National Agriculture Research Council auditorium here on Sunday.
Federal Secretary Ministry Science and Technology Akhlaq Ahmed Tarar was the chief guest on the occasion. He inaugurated the event and visited the stalls set up by FAO, World Food Program (WFP), Oxfam and various other government and private organisations.
The federal secretary science and technology, in his speech, read out the messages of the president and prime minister of Pakistan and said that the world s staple food prices soared to the highest level in 30 years thereby represent a major threat to food security in developing countries like Pakistan.
Rapid economic growth, population pressure and tight global market are in fact some of the major reasons behind food price hike. Today, 925 million people in the world suffer from hunger and malnutrition. It requires concerted efforts at the national, regional and international efforts to surmount the menace of hunger, he said.
He said that the importance of agriculture sector in the economy of Pakistan can be recognized from the fact that 62 per cent of rural population is engaged in agriculture directly or indirectly, share of agriculture in exports is 60 per cent, provides employment to about 44 per cent labour force and contributes about 21 per cent share in national GDP.
In addition, this sector is not only providing food for 177 million populations but also feeding more than 160 million livestock and providing raw material for all agro-based industries, he added He said that floods have multiplied the situation of food insecurity in Pakistan. Majority of the people in the affected areas rely on agriculture as a source of food and income. Millions of people in Sindh province have lost their productive assets and livelihoods, especially farmers who have lost their sources of food and income, he said adding that this is the second consecutive year in which floods have disrupted or destroyed significant amounts of the kharif harvest and preparations for the rabi crops.
He further mentioned that around 0.84 million hectares of standing crops destroyed, including cotton, rice, sugarcane, sorghum, vegetables and pulses. In addition to the approximately 94,000 dead livestock, around 5 million surviving livestock are without shelter, at heightened risk of disease and worm infestation from standing water, and without feed as a result of flooded pastures and destroyed feed stocks. Others who spoke on the occasion included included FAO Representative in Pakistan Dr. Kevin D. Gallagher, Head of Programme of WFP Nick Paulsson and PARC Chairman Dr. Iftikhar Ahmad.
Dr. Kevin D. Gallagher in his speech read out the message from the Director General FAO Dr. Jacques Diou and said that more effort has to be made to address the problem of food price fluctuations, particularly for those who spend most of their incomes on food, to ensure that they can return from the market with enough for their families to eat nutritiously.