Swelling import bill of eatables

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DESPITE being an agrarian country, it is really unfortunate that billions of dollars are being spent every year on the import of eatables which really shows the neglect meted out to the most important sector of the economy, and if requisite steps are not taken immediately, the food security situation would further worsen.

According to the data compiled by Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, the import bill of eatables ballooned by 50.29pc to $ 5.344 billion year-on-year during the first eight months of the current fiscal year to bridge the shortfall in domestic production of agriculture produce.

The share of food items in the total import bill reached 15.76pc this year compared to 11.29pc last year.

Within food group import, the major contribution came from wheat, sugar, edible oil, spices, tea and pulses.

All this is coming at a price as on the one hand, it put pressure on our foreign exchange reserves and on the other hand this leads to price hike. The same was witnessed in the case of palm oil.

As the country is heavily reliant on the import of edible oil, its domestic prices witnessed a surge soon after increase in the international market.

Whilst sugar and wheat have also been imported to meet the demand and supply gap, yet their prices are on the higher side.

Hence, time has come to go beyond lip service and give special emphasis to the uplift of the agriculture sector on the modern lines and this cannot be done whilst taking care of the farmers, especially the small ones.

The government has done well by increasing the wheat support price as it will encourage the farmers to grow the commodity on more land.

However, there is also a need to reduce the input costs of farmers as well as encourage them to go for crop diversification.

Apart from traditional crops, they should be motivated to cultivate cash crops such as pulses, vegetables etc, the growth of which is on the downside over the last many decades.

A holistic strategy is need of the hour to ensure food security of the country.

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