ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has doubled the quantum of wheat from 40,000 tonnes to 80,000 tonnes as its share for the ‘Regional Food Bank’ maintained by the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc).
Minister for National Food Security and Research Sahibzada Mehboob Sultan made the announcement on Tuesday at the 10th meeting of the Saarc Food Bank board in Islamabad. The meeting was to take place in December 2018 but was rescheduled to January 21 to 22. The food bank board’s last meeting was held in Kathmandu in September 2016.
The Saarc region with 1.788 billion people has annual food grain requirement of 244 million tonnes and the total reserve represents 0.2 per cent of the total requirement though the reserve had jumped by 100 per cent from the 1988 stock to 486,000 tonnes in 2007.
At the Islamabad meeting, the board formulated recommendations for operationalising the bank, and it was decided that the international development partners working in the region would also be engaged in this regard.
The meeting deliberated on various aspects of the food bank and Saarc member states including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives and Sri Lanka were actively engaged during the meeting. Senior Joint Secretary Dr Javed Humayun, being the nodal point from Pakistan in the bank chaired the board meeting.
Speaking on the occasion, the minister for national food security and research highlighted the need to enhance joint efforts to address regional challenges such as climate change and also shifting of focus on enhancing intra-regional supply of food products. For this purpose, the Saarc food bank provided an excellent platform to its member states to interact with each other for intra-regional supply of food grains, he said.
Saarc countries were tied in several commonalities of culture, food and environment that could lead them in making joint efforts to end hunger, poverty and malnutrition in the region, he said.
National Food Security and Research Secretary Dr Hashim Popalzai underscored the important the role of the food bank to supply grains in the region to achieve the goal of regional food security as our region was home to nearly one-fourth of the world population.
He said all members of the Saarc food bank could mutually work out the modalities for operationalising the bank with the support of the Saarc secretariat. He said Pakistan had surplus production of food grains, which could be supplied in the region.
Pakistan had agreed to double the quantum of wheat as its assessed share to the food bank as per decision of the third board meeting, held in Kabul. The Saarc Food Security Reserve (SFSR) was established by the member states in 1987 during the third Saarc summit, which was held in Kathmandu in 1987 with an objective to provide a reserve of food grains to meet food emergencies in member countries. The initial size of the reserve was 199,800 tonnes which was raised to 241,580 tonnes in 2002.
Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2019