Food security critical for peace and stability: President

ISLAMABAD : President Asif Ali Zardari said on Thursday that the food security was critical for peace and stability and the issue needed to be addressed by the international community on priority basis.He said that the maximizing yield per acre, optimal use of water and land resources and adequate storage facilities would ensure food security and that called for a greater international cooperative effort.During a meeting with Dr. Jacques Diouf, Director General FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) here at the Aiwan-e-Sadr on Thursday, the President called upon FAO for setting up early warning systems to mitigate the damages of any natural calamity and to assist the government in drainage of water from the fields in those areas that were hit by the devastating floods.He urged for strengthening the on-going initiatives on promotion of high efficiency irrigation systems. The President said,” the agriculture sector which contributes 21% share in national GDP and provides employment to about 45% labour force has suffered huge losses during the recent floods and needs to be accorded priority for not only rehabilitation of the lands but also to re-engage the huge labour force that lost their livelihood due to devastation by the floods”.The FAO DG was accompanied by Daniele Donati, Chief, TCES, FAO Headquarters, Ms. Erahardt Johann, Syed Muhammad Ali, Assistant Representative FAO Pakistan and Mr. Luilgi Damiani, Senior Emergency and Rehabilitation Coordinator FAO.Pakistan side included Nazar Muhammad Gondal, Minister for Food and Agriculture, M. Salman Faruqui, Secretary General to the President, Senator Sughra Imam and other senior officials besides Secretary Food and Agriculture, Junaid Iqbal Choudhry.
The President said that there was an urgent need for establishment of R&D (Research and Development) facilities in Pakistan on the impact of climate change on agriculture so that any such situation in the future could be dealt with effectively.

Appreciating FAO’s assistance of nearly US $ 87 million for the Rabi Crop 2010 in the flood affected areas, the President said that the priority of the government was to provide maximum possible assistance to the small farmers out of its own resources and that from foreign assistance in order to enable them to re-cultivate their lands and compensate their losses.The President said that the government was encouraging the farmers to sow canola in the flood affected areas by assisting them with seed, inputs and land preparation to make optimal utilization of the land.He said that he had advised the government to make provision for the free supply of seed to canola growers and asked ZTBL (Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited) to work out a scheme of providing financial assistance to the farmers of the affected areas.He said that he had advised the government to consider the proposal of giving interest free loan of Rs 10,000 per acre to the worst hit farmers for a period of ten years.

Simultaneously, the farmers have been asked to consider waiving the loans of the Haris to enable them return to their homes and rehabilitate the devastated agricultural landscape, he added.The President said that the establishment of rain water harvesting and water lifting schemes in water deficit areas for increasing agricultural productivity was another area where Pakistan needed assistance of international bodies especially FAO.
Dr. Jacques Diouf thanked the President for meeting and assured that the FAO would continue its operation in the agricultural sector and would continue to assist the Government of Pakistan in overcoming the impacts of unprecedented havoc – App