Pakistan food prices too high: UN food relief agency

Malnutrition levels in Sindh reached 23 %, according to the UN agency.

Updated: Mar 24, 2011, 00:46 AM IST

Geneva: Pakistan`s government has pushed
food prices too high for its impoverished population and
malnutrition is rising despite crop recovery after dire
floods, a UN relief official said on Wednesday.

Food crops especially wheat in the southern plains hit
by last year`s floods were recovering fast with the prospect
of decent yields in coming weeks, said World Food Programme
(WFP) director in Pakistan, Wolfgang Herbinger.

"The crop outlook is not bad but the food security
situation remains difficult because prices remain so high," he
told journalists on the sidelines of humanitarian meetings in
Geneva.

"The government is the biggest buyer of wheat in
Pakistan they are setting the farm gate price and they
dominate market," Herbinger said.

"That`s why the wheat price in Pakistan didn`t adjust
when, for example, in 2009 and early 2010 the wheat price had
gone back a lot, it stayed high to the detriment of local
consumers."

People paid double the price for wheat compared to
three years ago and the food security situation has "changed
dramatically," the WFP official added.

Malnutrition levels in the southern province of Sindh
had reached 21 to 23 per cent, according to the agency.

"That is well above African standards. The emergency
standard is 15 percent," the WFP official said.

A recent survey found that in some flood-hit areas 70
percent of people were taking out loans to pay for food.

"You may have the country full with food but people
are too poor to buy it," he said.

The WFP was "struggling a bit" to get the message
across, he said.

Bureau Report