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The wheat flour market system in the context of severe flooding

Ghotki and Sanghar Districts, Sindh Province
August, 2015

The consecutive flood years of 2010 and 2011 were the worst floods Pakistan has experienced to date, affecting 20 million and 9.3 million people, respectively, throughout the country. In Sindh Province, the floods led to loss of life and also damaged standing crops, household and livestock food stocks, health, education and road infrastructure, houses, irrigation and drainage facilities and protected drinking water sources. Millions of people were displaced for several months or more while waiting for the flood waters to subside. Unless there are major changes to protective infrastructure, it is likely that a similar flood in the future will have a similar impact.

Pre-Crisis Market Mapping and Analysis (PCMMA) is a relatively new approach to conducting market assessments prior to emergencies in order to anticipate how markets will respond after a shock occurs. The PCMMA in Pakistan was an IRC-led effort intended to generate learning that could be used to refine the approach, while also providing information to humanitarian actors in Pakistan to feed into strategic and operational emergency planning efforts and building local capacity in market assessment. The analysis team followed the PCMMA guidance to apply an approach similar to that of the EMMA Toolkit in a pre-crisis context. It examined how the 2010/11 floods had impacted the function of four selected critical market systems in order to draw conclusions about the likely impact of future floods on the market systems and to propose appropriate market-based preparedness and response interventions. This report presents the findings and recommendations for the wheat flour critical market system in Ghotki and Sanghar Districts.

Wheat is the dominant crop and staple food in these districts. Though there are significant and complicated social issues and vulnerabilities related to the system of sharecropping and the constant debt in which many producers and other market actors operate, in non-flood times the wheat flour market system in the region is otherwise fairly robust, with production and capacity levels that exceed local-level demand. The market is competitive and integrated, with little variation in prices along the market chain and throughout the year.

During a future flood emergency, the wheat flour market system is likely to respond as it did in 2010/11; that is, prices will increase slightly, due to both transport issues and also to the destruction of wheat flour stocks throughout the market chain. Nonetheless, stocks within the district are likely to be adequate to meet the district-level demand for wheat flour for several months, provided that affected households are somehow able to access those stocks. However, the flooding will likely lead to massive damage to and blockages of key transportation infrastructure that will impede the movement of rice from one part of the district to another and that will affect the entire market chain, from large mills to market retailers to tenant farmers. These very serious transportation challenges must be addressed if the market is to effectively supply the flood-affected population with the wheat flour that they require during and after the flood.

For a future humanitarian response, this report recommends in-kind provision of locally procured wheat flour to the most vulnerable households for the first month of intense flooding, to be replaced by unconditional cash grants to cover wheat flour needs until the harvest in March/April. It also recommends several activities focused on emergency preparedness, including a mapping and communication exercise focused on identifying key transport routes and land areas that are vulnerable to flooding; the development and implementation of longer-term agricultural development/poverty eradication programs to begin addressing the underlying power inequality in wheat production in Sindh Province; advocacy at the national-level food security cluster for consistent provision of the complete caloric requirements for the poorest households in emergencies; and support to actors throughout the market chain to flood-proof storage facilities.

Report authors: 
Emily Sloane and Khanzada Khan
Download Report (1.14 MB pdf)