Pakistan’s looming food crisis
September 13, 2022 - Floods caused by record monsoon rains and melting glaciers in Pakistan’s northern mountain regions have left the country’s agriculture belt underwater and the nation facing food shortages.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) estimates that the floods have damaged more than 14,600 square kilometres of crops in Pakistan, much of it in southern Sindh province -- the country’s breadbasket.
Deluges from the Indus river and Lake Manchar in Sindh province continue to threaten Dadu district, where rescue boats are evacuating villagers. UNICEF reports that more than 660,000 people are sheltering in displacement camps.
Another concern is a rise in waterborne diseases, and there are already reports of thousands of people suffering from dysentery. Even before the floods, Pakistan was experiencing a surge in cholera cases across the Sindh and Balochistan regions.
Sindh province is one of the world’s top producers and exporters of cotton and rice, and the floods have destroyed as much as half of Pakistan’s cotton crop -- a blow to global cotton production in a year when prices have soared, driven by extreme weather. Sind also produces wheat, sugarcane, bananas and mangoes.
“The acute loss of farmland and agriculture is likely to be felt in the months and years ahead,” said Shabnam Baloch, IRC’s director in Pakistan.
The floods also threaten Pakistan’s wheat planting season this October, raising the possibility of continued food shortfalls and price spikes into next year.
“We’re in a very dire situation,” said Rathi Palakrishnan, deputy country director of the World Food Programme in Pakistan. “There’s no buffer stocks of wheat, there’s no seeds because farmers have lost them.”