ADB Asian Development Bank Report
Dawn Editorial in Urdu watch video on complete analysis
What is in this Dawn Editorial today?
TO a considerable extent, Pakistan’s economy has escaped the compounding impact of the coronavirus outbreak and the locust invasion. The worst may be behind us, at least for now, although the twin plagues have hurt millions of Pakistanis and disrupted the economy. A new ADB report about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the locust swarms on farm households in Sindh shows that livelihoods and food security were significantly affected by the virus outbreak and the hoppers. Half of over 400 farmers interviewed for the survey reported lower food consumption and a third complained of reductions in their earnings because of the nationwide lockdown enforced to curb the spread of infection. Similarly, the swarms have affected almost all respondents from upper Sindh and over a third from lower Sindh. The farmers also reported an almost universal lack of response from the government as a “source of information about the locust swarms or relief in the form of surveys and spraying”.
The bank had conducted the survey back in June when infections were peaking, and developing locust invasions were threatening to devastate the crops and orchards in most parts of the country. Three months later, the situation does not seem as dire as at the time of the survey. Although the two scourges have left deep scars on the economy and the people, a substantial number of households in the urban and rural areas appear to be on the road to recovery. Overall, the economy is on the mend as reflected in the published data for the first quarter of the ongoing fiscal year. But is there any room for complacency? The answer to the question is in the negative. The virus outbreak and the locust attack have clearly shown us that we are not ready to combat such emergencies. Indeed, the government took some timely policy and other measures to mitigate the effects of Covid-19 and the locusts; but these actions were temporary and, in some cases, may have only delayed the inevitable. We still don’t have the required infrastructure to handle any recurrence. For example, we do not have a single functional crop duster to protect our farmers from another locust invasion. Nor do we have facilities to treat Covid-19 infections outside a few major cities. Thus, as the ADB report points out, the government needs to take action to both mitigate the damage already caused and to invest in long-term means to confront such emergencies.
Published in Dawn, October 15th, 2020
Sindh Province contributes significantly to the country’s overall production of major crops, providing
• 41% of rice
• 31% of sugarcane,
• 21% of wheat, and
• 15% of cotton produced
(Agriculture Department, Government of Sindh n.d.)
COVID-19-related problems have severely affected farmers of all crops (including wheat, tomato, fruits, and vegetables) and dairy. Over 65% of wheat farmers and more than 67% of fruit and vegetable farmers reported difficulties with selling their produce.
Essential actions (i) ensure timely supply of agricultural inputs,
(ii) ensure price stability for agricultural produce,
(iii) ease loan repayment conditions or provide waive loans, and
(iv) remove restrictions on marketing agricultural produce in districts beyond where it was grown
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