Friday, July 9, 2010


Land is critical when it comes to attaining self sufficiency in food and there is great inequity in distribution of land within a country and between the countries. The irony is that those having plenty of land have neither the investment resources or the technological prowess to to put it to most optimal use and derive the benefit fully. Such a situation has led to many rich nations to buy or lease out land in less affluent countries through economic allurement, the intention being to take back the harvested crop to feed their own population or for trading in the world market. The indigenous population in the countries which lease out land to foreigners is invariably left high and dry with no access to the harvest. Pakistan is a typical example where the people are groaning under varying degree of food insecurity due to perennial supply-demand gap and critics attribute this to the inefficiency of the government there.

"The reasons for food insecurity in Pakistan are not only external. The government bears a strong responsibility in this situation. Zafar Altar of the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council denounces the bad governmental management of agriculture, notably the disproportionate emphasis on wheat, the inefficiencies of fertilizer and irrigation systems, the poor infrastructure in the western provinces, and a lack of innovative knowledge generation. Unfair subsidy policies that disproportionately favour producers and penalize consumers are also to blame. Food insecurity is also due to unequal land distribution. For instance, the availability of, and access to, wheat is very different in poor Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) and in rich Punjab. Instead of launching broad-based and efficient land reforms, the government is selling 202,342.8 hectares of farmland to Saudi Arabia, so that it can meet its own food needs. An improved land access would reduce food prices for families and thus would help strengthen food security and reduce poverty, two closely linked issues".
Availability of food grains need not necessarily mean accessibility because lack of purchasing power due to low income make it difficult for a section of the population to buy them at the prevailing market price. In a country like India vastly subsidized grains are supplied through the vast net work of Public Distribution System at prices considered one of the lowest in the world. Land reforms that can make available land for the growers on extended tenure and low interest finance for providing the necessary inputs for cultivation only can spur any meaningful production increase.

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