ISLAMABAD: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Friday urged the federal and provincial governments in Pakistan to review movement restrictions under the exemption policy to minimise disruption to the food supply chain.

This action is important to prepare for the emergence of a new Covid-19 variant or another pandemic, according to an ADB report on the continuing impacts of the pandemic on farm households in Pakistan.

ADB says the pandemic and disruption of movement have negatively affected the marketing of vegetables, fruits, and milk in both Punjab and Sindh, and it is likely that farmers are still wary of market disruptions, as they experienced in 2020 and 2021.

The report says the national and provincial governments need to ensure market access for farmers in order to encourage them to produce high-value agricultural products.

The government allowed exemptions for food systems during the lockdown and movement restrictions caused by the coronavirus disease pandemic. However, disruptions in food supply chains persisted in 2020 and 2021 as well.

In 2021, some farmers in Sindh province became wary of growing high-value crops for fear of prolonged market disruptions. This calls for support from the government in terms of ensuring that farmers have market access for their production of high-value agricultural products.

A large percentage of farmers in both Punjab and Sindh reported disruptions in the purchase of farm inputs and an increase in the corresponding prices. Similarly, many farmers reported difficulties in obtaining machinery or its spare parts and labour to prepare the land for the next sowing. Even though conditions have improved in both provinces, Sindh continues to face challenges.

In 2021, the percentage of farmers producing high-value products in Sindh decreased. The percentage of producers dropped from 26 per cent to 14pc for tomatoes, from 31pc to 27pc for vegetables other than tomatoes and fruits, and from 33pc to 27pc for milk. In Punjab, the situation is more stable. The percentages for these crops remained at the same level, the report says.

In 2020, 94pc of Sindh farmers who grew tomatoes reported difficulty selling their crop or being unable to sell it at all.

This figure will fall to 69pc by 2021.

Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2022

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