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Pakistan floods raise fears of hunger after crops wrecked

Published : Tuesday, 27 September, 2022 at 12:00 AM  Count : 785

People ride through a flooded street in Phnom Penh on September 26 following a heavy rain shower.	photo : AFP

People ride through a flooded street in Phnom Penh on September 26 following a heavy rain shower. photo : AFP

KHAIRPUR, Sept 26:  Like every year, Arz Mohammed had planted his little patch of land in southern Pakistan with cotton. The crop would earn him enough so that, as he puts it, his family of five wouldn't be reduced to begging. Then came the deluge.
Pakistan's massive floods this summer collapsed Mohammed's home and destroyed his four acres of cotton, wiping out most of his income.
On top of that, his land and that of his neighbors remain underwater, three months after the heaviest rains stopped. Like many farmers across southern Pakistan, he may not be able to plant his next crop - wheat - in time.
That could spell trouble for the country's food supply.
"These rains have destroyed everything for us," said Mohammed, who lives in a tent with his wife and children near his wrecked house in Khairpur, one of the country's hardest-hit districts. "We don't even have anything to eat."
This summer's flooding, caused by monsoon rains nearly triple the usual ferocity, wiped out huge swaths of crops, leaving already impoverished families struggling to obtain food. Farmers and officials warn that Pakistan could now face serious food shortages at a time when the government is strapped for cash and world food prices are high.
Nearly 15% of Pakistan's rice crop and 40% of its cotton crop were lost, according to officials. The waters also wiped out the personal grain stores that many farming families rely on for food yearlong.
The flooding, blamed in part on climate change, killed nearly 1,600 people, damaged nearly 2 million homes and overall wreaked damage estimated at more than $30 billion.
At the United Nations last week, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif told The Associated Press that crops on 4 million acres were washed away. "We need funds to provide livelihood to our people. We need funds to compensate for the loss of crops to our people, to our farmers."
The government says there is no immediate worry about food supplies. In a statement to the AP, the state disaster agency said wheat stock are enough to last through the next harvest and that the government is importing more.
However, the upcoming wheat crop has been thrown into uncertainty. Planting usually starts in October. In Punjab province, the country's main wheat producer, fields suffered less damage and can be sown in time. But in southern Sindh province, the second largest producer, some 50% of the fields remain underwater, according to Jam Khan Shoro, a provincial irrigation minister in Sindh.
Aerial footage in Sindh shows field after field still inundated. The province, in Pakistan's southern lowlands at the downstream end of its major rivers, is where the floods hit hardest: 80% of the rice crop and 70% of cotton were destroyed, devastating the livelihoods of the small farmers who make up most the production.    -AP



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