What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Pakistani flour: Update

MStFB Spillover Monitor Report Update No. 12:1

I'll point here to some more interesting reading in an update to an earlier post of mine, in which I wrote of how food shortage in Afghanistan's conflict-hit areas spills over to Pakistan's northwestern territories and elsewhere, by generating smuggling, and bringing about, as a result of the emerging/spreading food shortage, price hikes.
This brief piece says that in reaction the Pakistani government has just introduced a special 40 percent export duty on flour, and only decided not to introduce a 30 to 35 percent similar export duty on rice because that measure eventually ran into objections in the cabinet. Now, I wonder of course if such an extra export duty won't simply make smuggling more rampant, by diverting some of the currently formal trade into the informal channels. (Yes, it does seem to me that in a country like Pakistan the regulation of anything will tend to lead to some spectacular rent generated to someone, intentionally or not.)
This article from Pakistan's The News then gives you some background knowledge about the importance of wheat flour (atta) in Pakistan. An excerpt:
"Wheat flour accounts for 45 per cent of average calorie intake by the people in Pakistan, which according to FAO 1991 statistics is the highest level of dependence on this staple food in the world.
Consumers’ dependence on flour has increased since then as it is the cheapest source of food available to the poor. The poorest of the poor were not hit much by the food inflation of the past three years as flour was still available at relatively low prices. But the recent surge in wheat rates has badly hit the downtrodden segment of the society."
The article then goes on to discuss that given its importance to Pakistani society flour is an obvious target for measures aimed at improving public health there, and the UN as well as some NGOs have already taken aim at it as such. "Flour fortification," as it is called, could mean adding thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and iron to flour, to make it rich in vitamins and minerals. This is planned since 10 years now, but even though this July these plans would have supposedly reached the stage whereby some 50 flour mills would have started adding the above mentioned micro-nutrients to their product, the flour mills are not yet ready. This might have to do with bureaucracy on the one hand, and I guess the troubled times of the flour industry in Pakistan on the other, given how the latter factor could make even the minimal investment required by adding micro-nutrients problematic to carry out. Maybe something to take aim at in a Global War on the Lack of Public Health, too? The 1998 survey data, cited by The News, according to which hundreds of thousands of child and maternal deaths might be attributed to malnutrition every year in Pakistan, might certainly urge something like that. (You see some chapati bread on the picture above - that is made using wheat flour.)
Finally, here you can read about the "skyrocketing" price of meat in Pakistan, for a change. Smuggling to Afghanistan, as well as Iran, is named as one factor behind it, whereas it is also made clear that political problems stemming from the nature of Indo-Pakistani relations play a part, too, as those make importing meat from India difficult.
Signs of trouble in already troubled land.
Update: I found some charts on the web with relevant data on child deaths in Pakistan, including the data cited by The News, so I'll insert them here. The second chart includes fresher data, from 2005.
Chart 1 (source, ppt):
Chart 2 (source; highlighting by me - P.M.):

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