Food crisis looms large on Gilgit-Baltistan

Weekly Bang-e-Sahar Karachi Saturday, August 16—-August 22, 2008
GILGIT: There has been persistent decrease in the production of wheat and maize in Gilgit-Baltistan for the last about 15 years. Due to increasing demand in the national and international markets, farmers of Gilgit-Baltistan have switched over to the cultivation of potato instead of wheat and maize.
Though the vast production of potato gave good return to the farmers, it also caused economic damages to them.
As the local farmers have no direct access to the national and international markets, they could not take full advantage of the produce and in return outsiders came in and bought the commodity at throwaway rates and sold it at exorbitant prices later.
The current food crisis in the world has put its negative effects on Gilgit-Baltistan. For the last many years Gilgit-Baltistan has not been able to keep pace between the growth of its population and production of food items. As a result, the area has been experiencing food crisis for the last many years. If the current rate of population growth continues, the area would be devoid of its agricultural land within the next a few decades.
In good old days, people in all parts of the area used to produce other crops alongside wheat and maize to meet their food requirements. But as import of wheat from Punjab started they stopped cultivation of almost all other crops except wheat. Soon the cultivation of maize became limited to meeting the requirements of fodder. The dependence on wheat imported from Punjab and other areas led to frequent food crises besides making a large tract of land barren in Gilgit-Baltistan.The excessive cultivation of potato also made the land infertile and as a result the farmers started getting less produce year after year. Experts believe that in the foreseeable future, Gilgit-Baltistan can be at the verge of a food crisis if priorities are not changed on time. They say to avoid the crisis the people should restart cultivating traditional food crops in all parts of the region and should not depend on only one crop.


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