The country has suffered a loss of about Rs250 billion in the agricultural and livestock sectors and the flood recovery costs may run into billions of dollars, local experts and a UN spokesman said on Thursday. The Minister for Food and Agriculture, Nazar Mohammad Gondal, said: “It is difficult to give an exact figure, but I agree that the loss of agriculture and livestock runs into billions of rupees.” “The floods have destroyed crops of cotton, rice, sugarcane and tobacco worth billions of rupees.” Javed Saleem, a former president of the Crops Protection Association (CPA), and Ibrahim Mughal, chairman of the Pakistan Agricultural Farms Association (PAFA), said over 17 million acres of agricultural land had been submerged and ripe crops of rice, cotton and sugarcane destroyed. Over 100,000 cows, buffaloes, goats, sheep, horses, camels and donkeys have been lost and 3,000 fish farms and 2,000 poultry farms destroyed across the country. “According to an estimate, the loss of cotton crop is of about Rs155 billion,” Mr Saleem said. In Punjab alone, a cotton growing area of about one million acres had been affected and crops worth Rs86 billion destroyed, he said. “The whole agricultural belt that includes Jhang, Bhakkar, Rajanpur, Rahimyar Khan and Layyah has been inundated.” Sindh has lost standing crops worth Rs95 billion over 100,000 acres. Cotton and rice are the major crops destroyed by the floods. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, over 325,000 acres have been submerged and crops worth Rs29.6 billion destroyed. Mr Mughal said over one million tons of wheat stock kept in houses had been swept away. “About 1,000 tractors have also been lost,” he said. According to dealers, the floods have caused a shortage of food items and the prices of fruits and vegetables have increased by 25 to 50 per cent. It is feared that the situation will persist for the whole year till cultivation resumes in flooded areas. Consumption of fruits and vegetables usually increases during Ramazan. “We are receiving only 800 trucks loaded with fruits and vegetables a day in Islamabad, compared to last year’s supply of 2,000 in Ramazan,” Safdar Siddique, president of the Islamabad Fruit and Vegetable Market, said. “We are importing potatoes and tomatoes from India to meet the demand,” he said. The experts said the shortage could be overcome if the government lifted the 25 per cent import duty and 10 per cent sales tax on agricultural items. Agencies add: United Nations humanitarian operations spokesman Maurizio Giuliano said: “The devastation to crops is immense. I think it’s safe to say it will take some billions of dollars to recover. Even though we don’t have estimates yet, I am referring to livelihood for agriculture and farming to get back in shape.” Two million people require shelter after fleeing flood-hit areas. Survivors face grim conditions in tent cities and diseases are flourishing in an unbearable heat. The UN humanitarian coordinator in Pakistan, Martin Mogwanja, said pledges of $195 million had already been made in response to an appeal for $460 million in foreign aid. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, after flying over flood-hit areas with diplomats, said: “An estimated 15-20 million people are believed to have been affected.” Appealing for international help, he said: “We immediately need tents for shelter, food for survivors, water purification plants and medicines for cholera, malaria and other water-borne diseases.” UN official Ban Al Dhayi warned of a risk of water-borne diseases and illnesses such as diarrhoea, malaria and dengue fever. “There are fears of an outbreak of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, polio and tetanus. Respiratory infections are a huge threat as well, especially among children,” he said at a news conference. World Food Programme official Wolfgang Herbinger said the UN had enough food to cater for more than two million people over 10 days, but bad weather and limited access was a problem. Iftikhar A. Khan adds: According to a perception survey carried out by the Gallup Pakistan, over one-third of the country’s people have been affected by the floods. Fourteen per cent of the respondents from a nationally representative sample said that they had been affected very seriously, 23 per cent said they had been affected to some extent, 29 per cent said their losses had been mild, while 31 per cent said they had not been affected and three per cent gave no response.
By: Dawn News