The U.N. Food Agency says the agricultural outlook for millions of Pakistan's flood victims is grim. It says the monsoon rains have destroyed huge areas of croplands, killed millions of animals and put in jeopardy future harvests.
The U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization is leading a damage assessment mission in Pakistan's five flood-affected areas. So far, it has finished viewing the situation in about half of the 79 districts hard hit by the monsoon rains.
A senior FAO official, Sandra Avilas, says the initial findings show an unprecedented scale of damage. She says about 80 percent of people in the flood-affected areas depend on agriculture for their livelihoods and this has been all but destroyed.
"The floods and flash rains in the country have not only damaged agricultural crops, livestock, fisheries and forestry, but have destroyed primary infrastructure such as tube wells, water channels, household storages, houses, animal sheds, personal seed stocks and fertilizers; as well as other agriculture, machinery and equipment," she said.
In the areas that have been assessed, Avilas says 1.3 million square hectares of standing crops have been damaged, much of the wheat stock has been lost, and two million large and small animals are dead, as well as six million poultry.
She says these terrible findings are bound to be much worse once the damage assessment of all the flooded areas is completed.
She says the floods have struck at a devastating time for the farmers. They occurred just prior to the harvest of key standing crops such as rice, maize, vegetables and sugar cane. As though that was not bad enough, she says the floods also come at the onset of the wheat planting season beginning in mid-September and October.
"One of the things that we are very worried about is this wheat planting season right now. If we are not able to address the issue right now, many farmers will miss the wheat-planting season and will not be able to harvest wheat until spring 2012," she said.
Avilas notes wheat is Pakistan's main staple crop. It accounts for two-thirds of the national cereal production. She says wheat provides 60 percent of the carbohydrates and protein requirements for the average Pakistani.
She warns missing this particular planting season will have devastating repercussions for the economy and for the population of Pakistan.