Pakistan’s next wheat crop at risk | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 06.09.2010
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Pakistan’s next wheat crop at risk

The flood in Pakistan has destroyed the country’s wheat seed stock. The UN Food and Agricultural Organization warns of a major shortfall in the seasonal wheat harvest.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) the flood has destroyed more than half a million tons of wheat seed stocks and more than 3 million hectares of standing crops in Pakistan like corn, rice, sugarcane and cotton.

Recently, the FAO has called for seeds to be urgently supplied to Pakistani farmers for the upcoming wheat planting season between September and November.

A woman walks by dead cotton crops in Punjab Province

A woman walks by dead cotton crops in Punjab Province

FAO fears long term impact

Four out of five people in the flood-affected areas depend on agriculture for a living, and the affected regions in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab are the most fertile and productive areas of Pakistan. Daniele Donati, chief of the FAO’s Special Emergency Program Service, believes it will not only be a short-term problem if wheat cannot be planted during this season.

He is concerned that the cost of the food aid operation of other agencies of the UN will go up, "and we are not sure of being able to provide all this food." Another problem will be the compensation of the shortfalls during the next season. This might mean "a major modification over the year of the food consumption pattern of Pakistan", Donati thinks.

Flood victims dependent on crop

"The wheat crop is the only staple food, staple crop in Pakistan", explains Muhammad Ibrahim, Secretary General of the Pakistan Agricultural Scientists Forum (PAS). Pakistan's economy depends upon planting wheat.

20 million people have been affected in this disaster. "And now it is the problem for us that we have to feed those 20 million people," adds Maqsood Ahmad, another board member of the PAS. According to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, the losses of crops in the flood are estimated to amount to nearly 3 billion US dollars.

The flooding has destroyed 3.6 million hectares of crops

The flooding has destroyed 3.6 million hectares of crops

No food security

If people in the flood areas cannot receive seeds within the next few weeks, they will have nothing to plant, since they are now starting to use their remaining wheat seed stocks to feed their families. The agricultural sector of Pakistan is now facing more dangers because beside the major crops of the country, the flood has killed more than 1 million livestock and around 6 million poultry.

Donati says that the most urgent thing is to provide the farmers - in the areas where they can resume agricultural activities - with seeds, tools and fertilizers. "Simultaneously, the provision of animal feed" is urgently needed, he claims, "as of now, to save animals represents the saving of the families." And the Pakistani livestock needs to be saved from diseases.

If the Pakistani farmers cannot plant wheat this season, many of them will not be able to plant for the coming 12 months. This will be equal to the loss of two harvests and will seriously affect the food security of millions of people.

Author: Pin Manika
Editor: Thomas Baerthlein

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