Friday June 21, 2024

Extreme weather: Experts fear 10pc cut in wheat, 30pc mango production

By M. Waqar Bhatti
May 12, 2022

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan may face at least 10 percent reduction in the domestic production of wheat as well as 30 percent reduction in mangoes in Sindh this year due to ‘extraordinary high temperatures’, water scarcity and other climate change-related events during the month of March and April this year, experts warned Tuesday.

“March 2022 was the warmest and driest month in the history of Pakistan. Due to extraordinarily high temperatures in this month, wheat crop was badly affected and we may face at least 10 percent reduction in wheat crop production this year,” former director general of Pakistan Meteorological Department Dr Ghulam Rasool told The News. Pakistan is facing extreme weather events for last few years with extreme heatwaves to cloud bursts, prolonged droughts and urban flooding due to climate change, experts said and advised the authorities to increase spending on climate change mitigation as frequency of extreme weather events is likely to increase in the years to come. The months of March and April 2022 were the ‘driest and hottest’ months in the history of Pakistan since 1961, PMD officials said, adding that extremely hot and dry conditions affected agriculture especially wheat production and production of mangoes, which is a major source of foreign exchange for the country. “Due to extraordinary high temperature in the month of March, the grains of wheat could not complete their biological cycle and they shrank in size. The starch content in the wheat also reduces and this may result in at least 10 percent reduction in wheat crop in the country,” Dr Ghulam Rasool added.

It is worth mentioning that Pakistan is already facing a wheat crisis due to multiple factors including war in Ukraine, which is the largest producer of the wheat in the world. Pakistan’s wheat requirement is around 30 million tons but agriculturalists and authorities fear that country’s wheat production may not exceed beyond 26 million tons due to extreme drought and ultrahigh temperatures in the month of March 2022. Dr Ghulam Rasool said Pakistan need to initiate research on drought and heat resistant varieties of crops including wheat, rice and fruits as well as establishing large reservoirs of water as extreme weather events would continue to impact agriculture and overall life in the country.

“Pakistan is one of the most affected countries due to climate change and we have witnessed that temperatures were extraordinarily high in the months of March and April this year. We need to work on climate change mitigation, establishment of water reservoirs and development of heat and drought resistant crops in Pakistan,” Dr Ghulam Rasool said. He said due to Russian invasion of Ukraine, which is the largest producer of wheat in the world, wheat cultivation could not be held and added that due to unchecked smuggling of wheat from Pakistan, the country could face a serious wheat and flour crises in the months ahead.

Same is the situation of mangoes production in Sindh, where extremely high temperature, less irrigation water and high velocity winds damaged the production of mangoes, experts and growers said, adding that a short of 30 percent in the production of Sindhri variety of mangoes was feared this year.

“In addition to water scarcity, we faced high temperatures in the month of March, due to which the biological cycle of the mango production was disturbed. When the fruits start developing in the month of April, we have had extreme windstorms which caused production losses of around 5 percent,” Mansoor Ahmed Cheema, a mango grower in the Mirpurkhas region and member of Sindh Abadgaar Board told The News. Mansoor Cheema said he was not aware of the situation in South Punjab belt but added that in Sindh, where the Sindhri variety of mangoes is produced, they feared at least 30 percent reduction in the crop due to weather-related events.