The Looming Food Crisis in Pakistan
Daily Times, April 5, 2008
ISLAMABAD: Nearly half of the country’s 160 million people are at risk of running short of food due to a surge in prices, the World Food Programme (WFP) said on Friday.
The WFP survey, covering the year to the end of this March, showed the number of people deemed “food insecure” had risen by 28 percent, from 60 million to 77 million, compared to the previous year. The World Food Programme estimates that anyone who consumes less than 2,350 calories per day falls below the food security line.
Sahib Haq, an official with World Food Programme’s Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping Unit in Pakistan, said food prices rose at least 35 percent in the past year compared with an 18 percent rise in minimum wages. “There is a very big gap between the increase in prices and increase in wages ... the purchasing power of the poor has gone down by almost 50 percent,” Haq said. The price of wheat flour is expected to shoot up by 40 percent or more in the coming months, according to grain industry officials. “There will be a big crisis,” Haq said. The new coalition government, which took power last month, raised the support price it pays farmers to buy wheat to ensure adequate supplies, but Haq said the move would result in sharply rising flour prices in the months ahead. reuters