Climate Change, Food Production, and Pakistan: Navigating a Complex Landscape

In the realm of Pakistan, the phenomenon of climate change has exerted a profound and deleterious impact on the physical accessibility of sustenance. A grave and urgent food crisis has been caused by the recent flood that devastated the land and destroyed agricultural crops. An area of 78,000 square kilometers (or, equivalently, 30,000 square miles) of arable land, spanning across 81 districts, was submerged by this catastrophic downpour. According to some experts, more than 80% of the country’s crops were harmed by the flooding.

As the province that produces a significant portion of the nation’s food, Sindh stands out among those that were the most severely affected. Agricultural land destruction and crop damage have put farmers’ organizations like the Hari Welfare Association and the Sindh Abadgar Board in a terrible state of distress. They vehemently contend that the floods have had a negative impact on more than 15 million people, including farmers and agricultural workers who depend on their daily wages for survival. Therefore, the 2022 iteration of the Global Hunger Index (GHI) has revealed that Pakistan occupies the 99th position out of the 121 nations for which there is adequate data to compute GHI scores. The score registered by Pakistan is 26.1, a metric indicative of the nation’s perilous state of hunger, which can only be described as severe.

Likewise, climate change dangers and supply chain disruptions brought on by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are likely to worsen the situation in the years to come. Without swift action to address the problem of food insecurity and strengthen resilience against the harmful effects of global warming, Pakistan may face an existential threat. Currently, Pakistan is in a precarious situation as a result of the disruption to the food supply chain, specifically the export of wheat. The conflict has had a significant impact on Ukraine, which has been Pakistan’s main source of wheat and exports about 1.2 megatons of wheat each year. Russia, another important source of wheat for Pakistan, has also been impacted. These exports are no longer being produced, which has driven up the cost of substitutes. The effects of unprecedented price increases on food could result in the enslavement of hundreds of millions of people and a worsening of the already alarming levels of malnutrition.

Pakistan, a predominantly agricultural nation, has been forced to import staple foods like wheat, sugar, and lentils. With a harvest of only 26.9 million metric tons, this year’s wheat crop fell short of the 30.8 million tonnes of annual demand. This deficiency has been caused by a combination of factors, including high temperatures, a lack of water, and rising fertilizer costs. Pakistan has authorized the import of 2 million tonnes of duty- and tax-free wheat from Russia in order to close the 3 million ton supply gap that the country is currently experiencing. The import of 500,000 tonnes of wheat has also been subject to open international tenders.

To mitigate the grave humanitarian crisis that has ensued, leading benefactors ought to come forth and hearken to the joint appeal of the United Nations and the Pakistani government for a staggering sum of $816 million, which constitutes a notable escalation from the initial request of $160 million and is essential for the purpose of providing immediate relief. In tandem with efforts by the Pakistani government and development agencies to re-establish the supply chain and rehabilitate food markets, they must also prioritize social safety nets for vulnerable segments of the population.

To effectively address the nutritional needs of those with low incomes, the government must increase the effectiveness of its current social protection programs. Additionally, by pledging to significantly increase its support for initiatives that aid communities in adapting to climatically extreme conditions, the international community has a responsibility to help secure the future. The government must also make sure that the funds it receives are used wisely, both to address the urgent needs that have arisen in the wake of the floods and to plan ahead for future, unavoidable, major climate events.

Concludingly, the severe consequences that can result from political conflicts and environmental factors, as well as the vulnerability of the world’s food systems, are both brought home by the current food crisis in Pakistan. The situation necessitates quick action to address the crisis’s underlying causes and create more resilient food systems that can withstand shocks and provide enough food for everyone.

Nadir Ali
Nadir Ali
Nadir Ali is associated with the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI). He has written for Pakistan Today, Pakistan Observer, Global Affairs, and numerous other publishers. He tweets at @hafiznadirali7 and can be reached at hafiznadirali7[at]