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ISLAMABAD: The consumption of pulses in Pakistan has sharply declined from about 15kg per person a year to about 7kg per person a year, found a new report of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations.

The report titled ‘State of Food and Agriculture in Asia and the Pacific Region’, reviewed pulse consumption in Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh over the period from 1961 to 2013. It has been prepared for the FAO regional conference for Asia and the Pacific being held in Fiji on April 9-13.

The report found that as countries became richer, populations were shifting from vegetable proteins — such as those found in pulses and beans — to more expensive animal source proteins such as those found in dairy products and meat.

As South Asian countries become richer, people are shifting from vegetable proteins to those found in dairy products and meat

Despite declining consumption in the four countries, South Asia was the largest consumer of pulses in the world, it added.

In India, during this period, the consumption of pulse declined from about 22kg per person in a year to about 15kg per person per year. The decline was consistent with trends elsewhere in the world. In Sri Lanka, however, pulse consumption seemed to have fluctuated between 5kg and 10kg per person per year since 1960, except for a sharp drop from 1970 to 1985, the report said.

Pointing out challenges, it emphasised that the relative neglect of pulses, beans and other crops in agricultural policies in the region should be reversed so that the poor had relatively low-cost sources of protein and other micronutrients.

The report pointed out that although overall cereal consumption per capita either declined or remained constant, within the cereal group itself there were important changes. Utilisation of rice and wheat for food increased — in some cases sharply — while total food utilisation of coarse cereals, which had been relatively important in the 1960s, either declined or remained steady, implying a fall in per capita consumption since the population was increasing.

Citing example, the report said in East Asia rice and wheat utilisation for food was about 220 million tonnes per year in 2015, versus 20m tonnes per year for coarse cereals.

Total utilisation of ‘superior’ cereals was still rising in 2013 mainly because of continuing population growth, even though per capita utilisation had started declining from the mid-1990s onwards, it added.

The report put four South Asian countries — Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka — below the red line, indicating that their calorie consumption was below the level that would be expected given their per capita household expenditure.

Published in Dawn, April 9th, 2018