Internationally, food prices are high, and there is widespread agreement that, worldwide, the era of cheap food may well be over. Anywhere in the world, the differential impact of higher food prices, particularly for perishable goods, which are the main staple of of the majority of the population in developing countries, is greatest for those with low incomes, as they spend a higher percentage of household income on food than those who are financially better off.
The average household in South Asia spends about half of their total outgoings on food. Poor people have been particularly badly hit by rising prices, which have been particularly bad for cereals, which have seen high price inflation - both because of the proportion of income those with low incomes spend on food, and because the proportion of cereals consumed is higher for the poor than the non-poor. However at present, in Pakistan, an estimated two-thirds of expenditures by small farmers in the Sindh and Punjab provinces go on food –and in some areas of Sindh, it is as much as 87%.
In the case of Pakistan, rising food prices could lead to a level of instability which may in turn become critical for the maintenance of national security. Such a situation has the potential to impact on the regional and international arenas as well as at the national level, because of Pakistan’s geo-political strategic importance, and its persistent weak governance.
To understand the issues around food security in Pakistan, it is important to understand that the social, cultural and geographical context of the regions of the country differ considerably from one another – in social structures, in natural resource endowment, availability of physical infrastructure, social services, and in income levels. Though the provinces of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) (formerly the North West Frontier Province) and Balochistan are the poorest, there are also pockets of extreme poverty in both Sindh and the Punjab. Between and within the provinces, there is therefore considerable variation in poverty levels and access to productive resources, The impact of these differences, when combined with food insecurity, is potentially explosive, as will be described later on below.
Dr. Emma Hooper, Associate Researcher at CIDOB
Fecha de publicación: 12/2010