Pakistan Floods Destroy Crops, Could Cost Billions – for Sep. 9, 2010

Flood recovery costs for Pakistan’s vital agriculture sector and farmers could be in the billions of dollars, as a farmers’ association said half a million tonnes each of wheat and sugar had been destroyed.

Agriculture is the mainstay of Pakistan’s fragile economy, while wheat markets are on edge about crop losses after a drought in the major exporting Black Sea region sent prices to a near two-year high in August.

“The devastation to crops is immense. I think it’s safe to say it will take some billions of dollars to recover. I am referring to livelihood for agriculture and farming to get back in shape,” UN humanitarian operations spokesman Maurizio Giuliano told Reuters on Aug. 12.

The Finance Ministry said the floods would hit growth and this year’s gross domestic product growth target of 4.5 per cent would be missed, though it was not clear by how much.

The floods, triggered by unusually heavy monsoon rain, have scoured the Indus River basin, killing more than 1,600 people, forcing two million from their homes and disrupting the lives of about 14 million people, or eight per cent of the population.

Farmers have been reluctant to leave flooded areas. Some of those who do walk neck deep in water pulling their buffalos to reach safety.

“I was growing sugar cane and cotton. Everything is lost. Six to seven feet of water are covering my fields,” said Abdul Ghani Soomro, a farmer in southern Sindh province.

“It will take another six months for that water to dry, maybe even more. I have lost not only my standing crop, but my whole year is wasted.”

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