Food is a right that is treated as a commodity, said United Nations Secretary-General Antonia Guterres last week. In a world where there are two billion obese or overweight, 3bn cannot afford a healthy diet. And nearly a third of the food produced is lost or wasted.

In Pakistan, the Food Security Assessment Survey in 2016 revealed 18 per cent of the population as undernourished whereas the National Institute of Population Studies reported 45pc of the population as severely stunted. Consider these statistics hand-in-hand with the estimated 36 million tonnes of food wasted in the country every year — equivalent to every citizen of Karachi, Lahore and Hyderabad tossing out their lunch and dinner every day. The difference between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ could not be starker.

Agricultural subsidies are part of the problem of food insecurity. A United Nations report reveals that of $540 billion spent on subsidies, a whopping 87 per cent causes price and market distortions and encourage practices that damage the environment and disproportionately benefit the big boys at the cost of the small boys.

In Pakistan, there are subsidies along the entire value chain and are embedded in the production processes to the point that farmers no longer know how to operate in their absence.

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, September 27th, 2021

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