Pakistan Food Shortage: Solutions through CSR

1. Executive Summary

Pakistan has worryingly high levels of food insecurity, mainly due to losses in the production, processing and transportation phases of its Food Supply Chain (FSC). Although the production capacity of the agricultural sector is theoretically sufficient to meet the needs of the country’s populace, inefficiencies in the FSC does not allow this to happen. Lack of logistical, educational and financial support to the farmers is an additional cause that does not allow the remediation of these recurring losses in the FSC.

The telecom sector in Pakistan has achieved tremendous growth in the recent past and has become one of the leaders with respect to coverage, penetration and cell phone subscribers in the world. It is believed that Jazz which is the largest of these telecom companies is in a position to expand the pool of economic and social values by improving this social dilemma of food insecurity by using its skills, technology and infrastructure to strengthen the FSC and increase the efficiency of food production in Pakistan.

2. Situational Analysis

As per figures released by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) a third of the global food production is wasted annually (1.3 billion tons or $750 billion). On the other hand, almost 870 million people globally do not get sufficient food each day, mostly in low income countries (Arifeen, 2013; FAO, 2011; Teng & Trethewie, 2012).

With almost 208 million people, Pakistan has the sixth largest population in the world (Arynews, 2017). Having a relatively high growth rate of 2.7%, the population is expected to mushroom to 350 million in 2050. Agriculture is a large sector of its economy and is responsible for 21.8% of the GDP and 45.1% of total national employment (FAO, n.d.). It is estimated that 50% of the population lives in multidimensional poverty and food insecurity is increasing in the country each year (Bhutta, Zaidi, Habib, & Hussain, 2011). It is important to note that Pakistan’s food production capacity is sufficient to feed its population but so much food is wasted that 58% of its population is food insecure and its food security rank is 75 out of 105 countries (Arifeen, 2013; WFP, 2012).

South East Asian countries produce a large share of food globally as shown in Figure 1 (FAO, 2011).

Figure 1: Production volumes per region (million tonnes) (FAO, 2011)

The wastage of food between low income countries (like Pakistan) and high-income countries happens at different stages of the Food Supply Chain (FSC). Medium and higher income countries are known to waste more food at the consumption stage whereas the major food wastage for low income countries occurs at the production and retail stage ( Figure 2).

Figure 2: Food losses in different regions (FAO, 2011)

Some reasons for wastage in high income countries are stringent standards by retailers, wastages in restaurants and consumers. For low income countries wastage mainly occurs due to mishandling during harvest/post-harvest, transportation, storage and adverse climatic conditions (FAO, 2011).

The agricultural industry in Pakistan is comprised of 49.6% livestock, 47.5% crop, 1.3% fisheries and 1.6% forestry; out of which rice, sugarcane and wheat are the main crops (FAO, n.d.). When compared globally Pakistan ranks highly in many categories of food production as shown in Table 1.

Table 1: International rankings of Pakistani food production (Arifeen, 2013) (FAO, n.d.)

Weak FSC

Pakistan’s major concern for food wastage are connectivity issues in the FSC that hinder the farmers from taking their produce to the markets and consumers. For example, 15% wastage of wheat occurs before reaching the market (handling and storage issues) and 40% fruits and vegetables are wasted before they ever reach the consumer (transportation issues, bad road networks, weather issues) (Arifeen, 2013).

Climatic Conditions

In the past adverse climatic events have caused large scale damage to crops and climate change is expected to increase these events with ice melts in the Himalayas and 20–30% more monsoon rains (FAO, n.d.).

Policy & Education

A number of government and Non-Government Organizations operate in the rural and urban areas of Pakistan. Many are not directly connected to the farmers and some even play a negative role in order to control the farmers (FAO, n.d.). The policies created by the government in consultancy with other stakeholders rarely trickles down to the famer not allowing their full implementation and causing economic and environmental losses (Teng & Trethewie, 2012). Furthermore, new agricultural techniques and skills to improve crop outputs never reach the farmer who in many cases are uneducated. This lack of knowledge mean that farmers continue using outdated techniques in producing, processing, storing and transporting their produce that leads to food wastage and lower efficiencies (SAP-PK, n.d.).

3. Proposed Initiatives/Tactics

In Pakistan it is estimated that almost 90% of the population lives in areas that receive cell phone coverage and 67% of the population has a subscription (2016), ranking Pakistan as 10th globally with respect to mobile cellular connections (CIA, 2018). Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) acknowledges the importance of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in its 2016–17 annual report by acting as the ‘cross cutting enablers that can play a central role in achieving the goals and targets set under the SDGs’ (PTA, 2017). Jazz (previously Mobilink) is the largest cellular network provider in Pakistan with 55 million users and continuing to grow. Mobilink through its program called ‘Jazz Foundation’ already works towards its Corporate Social Responsibility goals by being involved in fundraising campaigns, disaster relief, environment, health, education and other initiatives (Jazz, n.d.).

This paper proposes that Jazz enhance its ‘Jazz Foundation’ program to work towards alleviating the major issue of food insecurity and wastage in Pakistan by utilizing its large penetration in the country. A solution that incorporates and utilizes the company’s strengths of technological nuance, efficient transmittance of information, operational ability to manage real-time activities efficiently and the access to healthy financial resources would best maximize the results. Considering these factors it is recommended that Jazz launches a farmer’s subscription package that subsidizes the usage rates for farmers along-with a phone application that can facilitate the farmers and empower them to resolve some of the issues in the FSC in Pakistan. The phone application could have the following features:

Logistical Support: Many of the problems related to food wastage are due to the lack of infrastructure such as storage and roads. The application could provide each farmer with logistical support using interconnectivity amongst the agricultural community integrated with the use of common mobile functions such as maps and GPS. For example it could guide the farmer to the closest cold storage or appropriate location to avoid their produce from going bad. It could also provide the closest and most optimum marketplace/buyers to sell the produce, hence avoiding spoilage due to the lack of these infrastructural resources.

Weather Forecasts: Each crop requires appropriate planning and protection from various climatic conditions. Using the internet and linkages to local weather forecasting, the farmers can be advised about what type of weather they can expect over the near future or past trends recorded over the years. This will equip the farmers with a fair warning of inclement weather allowing them to take required action to protect their efforts

Pricing Information: Most farmers in Pakistan have to go through sometimes manipulative middle men to sell their fruits in the markets. By having the latest market prices, the farmers will be able to extract the maximum profit out of their produce. A financially successful farmer is potentially a more productive farmer, resulting in a strengthened FSC.

Seeds and Fertilizers: Much of Pakistan was encompassed by the Indus Valley civilization which is considered as one of the oldest cradles of civilizations along with ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Agriculture is an age old tradition that has been passed down generations (Wright, 2010). Many farmers still rely on these old techniques and are not aware of which seeds or fertilizers might now be available to increase their yields and increase their efficiencies. This information can be easily transmitted through the application guiding the farmers to the best available seeds and fertilizers for their crops.

Government Schemes: Many government initiatives are launched for subsidized seeds, fertilizers and other accessories of critical importance, knowledge of which mostly never trickles down to the farmer. The application could provide updated information and alerts of the latest government schemes directly to those who would benefit the most and contribute to a healthier more secure Pakistan.

Expert Guidance: Another suggestion is to include videos and audio services that provide agricultural education to farmers from experts. Jazz can collaborate with educational institutions in Pakistan to allow farmers to upskill themselves. Additionally, a great opportunity could be created by providing an interface where the farmers are able to interact directly with the experts; creating a win-win situation where the farmer would benefit by learning new skills and the experts could use this opportunity to further their research.

4. Conclusion

Providing support to farmers in one of the top priorities for the popular incoming government of Pakistan (Dawn News, 2018). By aligning itself to resolving these issues, Jazz will not only position itself in a favorable position with the farmers, general population and the Government but also be able to create a long-term customer base amongst the agricultural community. Building these shared values amongst these local clusters will allow Jazz to cement its position and gaining an edge in the telecom industry which is often criticized to be too competitive (Tribune, 2016).


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