From Farm to Fork: Analyzing the Food Supply Chain Crisis in Pakistan

Pakistan now imports more than eight times as much wheat from Russia as it did before the supply from Ukraine was disrupted. Pakistan, known as the fifth most populous country in the world, became the fifth-largest importer of Russian wheat in the first eight months of the marketing year. All purchases in recent months have been made through an alliance between the Russian Federation and the government due to the strict limitations imposed by the government of Pakistan on private-sector wheat import activity.

However, having self-sufficient wheat production and, ideally, producing a surplus for potential exports or strategic reserves are two of the country’s main policy goals. To achieve this goal, the government diligently conducts an extensive wheat planting campaign each year, meticulously setting planting and yield goals, as well as agreed-upon procurement goals. Although the efficacy of such initiatives remains questionable, thousands of extension agents and agriculture students are dispersed throughout the country to inspire and counsel wheat farmers.

In addition, the government invests a significant amount of money to subsidize agricultural inputs and purchase wheat at a fixed price, which is then sold to flour millers at preferential rates to ensure that consumers can access affordable “Atta”. However, Pakistan faces significant obstacles due to the challenges brought about by climate change, as do many other countries. Although there are opportunities among these difficulties. The potential area for wheat cultivation has increased as a result of changes in rainfall patterns that have increased precipitation in some arid Balochistan and Sindh regions. Using post-monsoon residual moisture during favorable years, these areas may be able to produce an enormous wheat crop with relatively small investments, such as building water storage facilities such as small dams and implementing water-spreading technologies.

The agricultural projections for Pakistan show a 2% increase in wheat production, reaching a significant 27 million metric tonnes, despite a slight decline in cultivated land. This improvement can be attributed to more favorable weather conditions and easier access to irrigation water, which increased wheat yields. However, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has forecast a 3% increase in wheat consumption during the years 2023–2024, highlighting Pakistan’s rapid growth, which is among the nations with the fastest population growth in the world with a population of about 233 million. There is a serious crisis with regard to flour availability and affordability in Pakistan due to the shortage of wheat, which accounts for a significant 72% of the nation’s daily caloric intake.

The key to improving wheat production in the future will be to take advantage of the knowledge of entrepreneurs and other service providers in the private sector. However, the government must act as a facilitator, offering assistance in the form of credit and seed money, planning study tours to nations with thriving commercial cereal industries, such as Australia, Canada, Romania, and Russia, and inviting foreign experts with business and operational know-how to contribute. Policy changes are also urgently needed, such as allowing for greater flexibility in the domestic and international trade of wheat and related inputs, particularly seeds.

In reality, the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, water shortages, locust attacks, and unfavorable weather conditions have all been cited by the government as the root causes of the reduced agricultural yield. The corrosive effects of supply chain corruption, the evil practices of hoarding, and the covert strategies of black marketing, however, stand out by their conspicuous absence in the narratives put forth by those tasked with resolving the problem.

The climatic conditions in Pakistan are conducive to the growth of a wide variety of crops, fruits, and vegetables. However, the growing population along with the conversion of agricultural land to other uses, primarily housing developments, has led to a decline in local produce, making it insufficient to meet the population’s constantly growing demands. In order to prevent a looming food crisis, the federal government is forced to import agricultural products. Sadly, administrative shortcomings have sparked a supply chain crisis that has caused a sharp increase in commodity prices, along with problems with cultivable land. Unfortunately, neither the federal nor provincial governments have done a good job of fulfilling their primary duty of offering citizens respectable, affordable means of subsistence. All the energy seems to be going into political wrangling, mudslinging, and attempts to consolidate power rather than addressing fundamental issues.

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]