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LAHORE: The first-ever Punjab Food Outlook report launched here on Wednesday forecasts drop in production of three major Rabi crops (2018-19) – wheat, potato and gram – which cover 85pc of acreage in the winter season.

Called food basket of Pakistan, Punjab produces 84pc of the total gram output in the country, 95pc of potato and 77pc of wheat output.

Prepared in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) on the Punjab government’s request on the lines of the FAO’s Global Food Outlook, the report predicts 2.3pc decline in wheat production compared with last year’s due to water scarcity and expensive fertilizer.

It foresees 9.0pc fall in gram production because of drought and disease intensity. Pakistan is the fourth largest producer of gram.

The report forecasts a slight drop of 0.5pc in potato output too influenced by higher fertiliser prices. It also reports decline in area under cultivation of gram by 0.14pc and of wheat by 2.5pc.

Agriculture Minister Malik Nauman Langrial while formally launching the report hoped it would add value to the department’s analytical decision making and research and would also inform farmers about the trends in various crops and thus make informed decisions. He asked both the collaborating institutions to also prepare a similar report for Kharif crops.

Minà Dowlatchahi, FAO Country Representative, said the report would provide timely and accurate data enabling the government, extension workers and small farmers to make evidence-based decisions by monitoring food supply, demand and other key assessment indicators.

She hoped it would eventually help reduce poverty and improve food security and nutrition in Pakistan, and strengthen national capacities for managing and utilization of food security related information.

Raza Khan, adviser to the Punjab Agriculture Department, said the publication would facilitate preventive actions by anticipating upcoming shocks and help set benchmarks by making an assessment of associated opportunities and risks.

Stephen Davies, Senior Research Fellow at the IFPRI, gave details of the report in his presentation.

Special Secretary Agriculture (Marketing) Ehsan Bhutta, FAO’s Ajmal Jahangeer and IFPRI research analyst Amna Ejaz also spoke.

Published in Dawn, December 13th, 2018