Climate Change and Mismanagement Threaten Pakistan’s Food Security

by Ella

Farmers in Pakistan have been staging protests for several months following the government’s decision to reduce its wheat procurement quota. Sindh province, known for its early crop yields, has been at the heart of these protests. Despite the completion of this year’s wheat harvest two months ago, the standoff persists.

“The government set a wheat purchasing rate and was supposed to issue wheat bags directly to farmers,” explained Akram Khaskheli, President of the Sindh-based Hari Welfare Association, to Dialogue Earth. “However, some food department officials are allegedly selling these bags to small-scale traders (pedhi) for kickbacks. As a result, pedhi-walas are buying wheat from growers at rates lower than the government’s prescribed rate of PKR 100,000 (USD 360) per 100 kilograms.” These wheat bags are intended for packaging and selling wheat to government procurement centers.


Khaskheli warned that continued mismanagement by the government could lead to the loss of precious crops, worsening food insecurity despite the availability of wheat.


Typically, the government procures about 20% of wheat production, or 5.6 million tonnes, at a minimum support price, ensuring a buyer for some of the produce and helping to set a market rate. However, climate change is exacerbating Pakistan’s agricultural crisis.


Two Years of Agricultural Crisis Post-2022 Floods

The current crisis is linked to the devastating floods that struck Pakistan from July to September 2022, inundating a third of the country’s districts. A combination of climatic factors, including a warming ocean, contributed to the extreme rainfall event, affecting 15% of Pakistan’s cropland.


In regions like Johi in the Dadu district of Sindh province, the impact persisted for many seasons. Floodwaters stagnated for six months, and a collapsed barrage remained nonfunctional for two years. Talib Gadehi and his brothers, who own 350 acres (141 hectares) of land in the area, told Dialogue Earth that they struggled to cultivate their land for four consecutive seasons over two years.

Studies indicate that changing rainfall patterns have reduced crop yields by 6-15%, particularly affecting rain-fed crops like wheat, which has seen up to a 15% reduction. This does not account for the impact of heatwaves and floods.

Rising Inflation and Wheat Imports

The compounded effects of these climatic events contributed to Pakistan’s drop from the 99th spot on the Global Hunger Index in 2022 to the 102nd in 2023. A January 2024 analysis by the Food and Agriculture Organization reported an increase in poverty rates from 34% in 2022 to 39% in 2023, largely due to elevated food prices.

Over 10 million people experienced high levels of acute food insecurity between April and October 2023, according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification. Wheat, which accounts for 72% of the country’s staple food, saw importation by the caretaker government ahead of the 2024 national elections to address food security and inflation.

However, the agricultural sector had recovered, and farmers expected a higher-than-normal yield. The government’s decision to import wheat, therefore, led to reduced local purchases, sparking protests.

The Impact of Mismanagement and Climate Change

Pakistan’s food security issues underscore the importance of effective agricultural policies. Despite significant progress in wheat production—from 3,953 hectares producing 3,354 tonnes in 1947-48 to 9,043 hectares yielding 27,634 tonnes in 2022-23—Pakistan still ranks 38th in terms of average wheat yield globally, according to Index Mundi.

Climate change further complicates productivity. Pakistan’s agriculture heavily relies on irrigation, with 60-70% of water from snowmelt and glacier melt. Global warming has impacted both the quantity and timing of this contribution. Changing rainfall patterns have also led to soil erosion and affected rain-fed agriculture in regions like Potohar and northern Pakistan.

Solutions and the Need for Government Support

Agricultural scientist Zafar Ali Khokhar, director of agronomy at the Wheat Research Institute in Sakrand, Sindh, suggests that local seed varieties could double current production potential. However, issues persist in quality seed manufacturing and supply.

“Our institute has developed varieties yielding 80 maunds of wheat per acre [7.43 tons per hectare], but ensuring the necessary seed supply rests with responsible manufacturers,” Khokhar told Dialogue Earth. “Currently, only 30% of total seed demand comprises high-yield wheat seeds, supplied by government or private companies.”

Aamer Hayat Bhandara, a member of the prime minister’s committee on agriculture yield improvement, emphasized the urgency of action. “If past governments could not prioritize modern techniques, technology, and accessibility for farmers, it is high time to focus on it now.”

Ultimately, addressing Pakistan’s food security requires not only tackling climate change but also ensuring effective agricultural policies and government support for farmers.



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