Pandemic’s effect on food security to be reviewed

Updated Jun 02 2020

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Apart from reviewing Covid-19's impact on food security, think tank will also suggest measures that can be taken for cost-cutting. — Dawn/File
Apart from reviewing Covid-19's impact on food security, think tank will also suggest measures that can be taken for cost-cutting. — Dawn/File

ISLAMABAD: With major real sectors of economy in the red, the government has called the first meeting of the Think Tank on Economic Impact of Covid-19 on Wednesday (June 3) to review and analyse the food security situation and ponder over possible responses.

The Think Tank on Economic Impact of Covid-19 was constituted by Prime Minister Imran Khan on May 5. It has been entrusted with to focus on four key areas at the outset before moving to the long-term goals given the fact that the agriculture sector missed its output targets by big margins, it was the only sector that in fact posted a growth compared to contraction in industrial and services sectors.

The first task before the think tank is to review the overall scenario of Covid-19 in respect of food security and options for consideration. Secondly, the think tank has been asked to suggest innovative cost cutting measures. Third, the forum is required to identify and make available un-utilised or dead assets that can be disposed off to generate funds and lastly to come up with ideas and initiatives for ministries concerned, divisions and organisations for generation or enhancement of revenues.

The recommendations of the think tank would be submitted to the prime minister for some of them to be made part of the upcoming federal budget for fiscal year 2020-21 and remaining to be followed up in the medium-term.

Led by Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhar Imam, the think tank comprises Executive Director Sustainable Development Policy Institute Dr Abid Qayum Sulehri, former World Bank consultant Abid Hassan, Secretary Ministry of National Food Security and Research Omar Hameed, Vice Chancellor Agriculture University Multan Dr Asif Ali, Vice Chancellor Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi Dr Qamar-Uz-Zaman, Vice Chancellor Sindh Agriculture University Tandojam Dr Mujeeb-ud-Din Memon and Vice Chancellor University of Agriculture Peshawar Dr Jehan Bakht. All four Crop and Animal Husbandry Commissioners have been made co-opted members of the cell.

Informed sources told Dawn that even though the National Accounts Committee had early this month estimated the agriculture output at 2.67 per cent this year against its 3.5pc target, there were reports of some post assessment losses due untimely rains and locust attack. As a result, the wheat output that was originally estimated by the NAC to have missed the target by 9-10pc might have suffered further loss, particularly in barani areas and some parts of Punjab.

The Federal Committee on Agriculture (FCA) had set the wheat crop production target for current year at 27.03 million tonnes with sowing over an area of 9.2m hectares but the NAC was reported a wheat production at 24.8m tonnes.

The sugarcane output missed the target by a minor gap as it stood at about 67.5m tonnes against the target of 68m tonnes. Cotton suffered the most as its total output Stood at 9.18m bales against a target of 12.72m bales, showing a shortfall of almost 28pc.for 2019-20.

Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2020