Nationís food security at risk?
By Zafar Aslam
Food and other essentials for the local consumer first.
While the country is going through its biggest financial
crises led by cost push inflation our business indices
reflect that the country is doing better than last years in
all its sectors.
Production is up in all major industries, bumper crops and
we have excess piles of carry-forward stocks of sugar, rice
and wheat. In fact, Pakistan being a net importer of wheat
is now exporting wheat.
How can this be when one after the other the country faces
multiple crises and acute shortages of sugar, wheat,
electricity, gas, petroleum and so on with interest rates
touching 17%, and to top it all the number of people forced
to live below the poverty line increasing from 25% to 40%?
Our government tells us this is due to the price hike in
most essential commodities in the world.
While I tend to agree that prices for imported items will
increase due to this factor and its related consequences-
but what is happening to our surplus production? The local
demand for all the basic food items has dropped due to
exorbitant prices in the market along with the reduction in
the purchasing power of the common man.
The only reason is that while our countrymen are facing near
starvation all excess production is being exported to other
countries which may have oil but no food. Prime cases here
being Afghanistan and the Middle East who are our biggest
In order to bring down prices in the country, Pakistan
should, with immediate effect, put a ban on export of all
basic food items including wheat, rice, sugar, poultry,
meat, fish and all vegetable and fruits with a clear warning
to all belonging to the production and manufacturing sectors
that the ban will remain until the food prices of all these
items are brought at a level where the average Pakistani can
afford to feed a minimum family of five. As soon as the ban
comes into place we will see an immediate reduction in the
prices of all consumer based products.
While this may result in a temporary loss of exports of
about US1 billion a year it will immediately benefit 160
million people. At the end of the day, the choices we make
and the decisions we take are up to us. What is more
important ó $1 billion or 160 million Pakistanis?
Imposing a ban will immediately release the pressure on the
average Pakistani who will be able to feed his family.
Meanwhile, the government can concentrate on creating a long
term price mechanism apparatus and devise ways of enforcing
this apparatus to ensure that the prices do not go out of
control in the future.
In Europe, while the basis costs of raw material and
petroleum etc is dependent on the international market rate
and subject to fluctuations, manufacturers are allowed a
maximum of three per cent price increase per year in their
costs to cater to inflation and currency fluctuations.
However, this is not the case in Pakistan. The government
should warn its local producers of fertilisers, pesticides
and seed banks that they cannot increase the prices of their
material by more than 5-7 per cent per year.
All that is happening now is the big local and multinational
companies dictate their prices and at times have imposed
increases of up to 100-300 per cent per year without any
authority to monitor them. This is bringing in huge profits
to their shareholders at the cost of our nation. When has
one ever heard of multinationals lose money?
Courtesy: Express Tribune