'Food secure' Pak will now have to "start from scratch", says UN official

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Islamabad, Sept 8 (ANI): Pakistan's ability to feed itself is in doubt after massive floods ravaged the "food-secure" country, and it may now have to "start from scratch", Luigi Damiani, senior emergency and rehabilitation co-ordinator for the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization in Pakistan, has said.

"They have to start from scratch or even below scratch," the Globe and Mail quoted Damiani, as saying.

"What is scary, what is really impossible to imagine, is the dimension. The secretary general of the UN, when he visited, said he's never seen something like this," he added.

The unprecedented scale of destruction caused by the floods- comparable to the spread from Paris to southern Italy- is the most gigantic wipeout of a national food system in recent history, causing experts to fear that whatever path was chosen, the efforts may turn out to be ineffective, the paper reported.

The rural regions of Pakistan might be permanently abandoned and a whole mass of population would shift to the already crowded urban regions, if agriculture could not be resumed in rural areas, officials feared.

Pakistan was "food secure", before the floods affected over 17 million people, sank one million hectares of fertile land, drowned six million birds and destabilized over 14 million livestock, Damiani said.

According to him, the immediate priority would be to salvage the remains of the winter planting season as the water recedes, and to plant seeds for the next crop, because, if this crop cycle was missed, "it means the next harvest for wheat will be April or May, 2012,".

That would result in two years of guaranteed food instability for both people and livestock, and make conditions worse for the already-struggling country. (ANI)

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