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Heavy rainfall beginning in July 2010 caused flooding in 79 of Pakistan’s 122 districts, killing 1800 people and affecting approximately 20 million nationwide, as well as destroying field crops and killing large numbers of livestock. In addition, the floods led to acute shortages of feed for the animals that survived, putting an estimated 800,000 animals at risk in the coming winter. Food security is a major humanitarian concern, with the Rabi planting season (September/October) hampered by the loss of an estimated 500-600 MT of wheat seeds.
During this EMMA exercise, four groups of critical market systems were selected because of their significance in the lives and livelihoods of the flood-affected population: staple crops (wheat), agricultural labor, geo-specific markets (livestock, fodder) and shelter materials (bamboo and timber). The target group of this assessment included flood-affected households in Punjab, KPK, and Sindh Provinces. This report summarizes the baseline and post-flood situation of the wheat seed market system in Punjab and KPK Provinces and the wheat flour market system in Sindh. Detailed reports on each region are available separately.
Pakistan is the 10th largest producer of wheat in the world, and wheat is Pakistan’s most important agricultural crop, grown by about 80 percent of all farmers and planted on 40 percent of the total cultivated area. After many years of national wheat deficit, in 2008 the government supported the sector by massively increasing the farm support price, thus creating a bumper harvest of approximately 24 MMT. Currently, the government maintains a ban on wheat exports and imports. Although Pakistan now regularly produces a surplus of wheat at the national level, restrictions on transporting wheat within the country have caused severe regional disparities in wheat availability and prices.
Farmers have lost a significant portion of their wheat seed stock. This may lead to increased demand for certified wheat seeds, although how these seeds will be paid for is unclear. At the time of the assessment, very little wheat seed was found in local markets. Demand is not clear, since the planting season is yet to start, but it can be assumed that it will be reduced from last year given the constraints of land that remains flooded or not cleared and the loss of assets that would be used for planting. Farmers are also unlikely to be able to afford to buy certified seeds. Village traders and small businessmen have also been affected, and therefore may not be able to provide credit to small farmers as usual. Aside from the direct impact to the wheat seed stock, the floods also damaged irrigation channels and have covered vast production areas with silt, thus posing additional challenges to farmers in terms of land preparation.
For wheat flour, the majority of rural farmers and consumers were heavily affected through losses of wheat grain stocks that were intended for consumption. Farmers are not completely reliant on wheat for flour, and many consume large volumes of rice flour; however, the flood also destroyed the standing rice crops, thus creating a medium-term food security risk. District food controllers and the Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (PASSCO) have stocks of wheat grain, but the volume may not be enough to last until the next wheat harvest. In addition, the current year's harvest is expected to be lower than usual given that some of the districts are still under water, and farmers in these areas are not expecting to plant.
Cash transfer programs (grants, cash for work and vouchers), direct distribution of wheat seeds and wheat flour in very specific areas, and food security interventions such as diversification of crop production and strengthening of alternative income sources are some of the study's basic recommendations, along with further food security assessments and coordination and advocacy work.