Pakistan floods: ‘Have gone back 50 years’, say farmers counting losses

With a third of the country submerged under the flood, farmers in Pakistan have lost their standing crops of cotton and sugarcane. A farmer in Sindh province says, ‘We have gone back 50 years’

Livemint
Published3 Sep 2022, 03:47 PM IST
Farmers claim that the devastating flood has taken Pakistan ‘50 years back’
Farmers claim that the devastating flood has taken Pakistan ‘50 years back’

Pakistan is slogging through one of the most devastating disasters in the country's history on account of the floods that have left a third of the country under water. Farmers in Pakistan are still counting their losses but the overall impact of the floods is clear.

Farmers have lost their standing crops that were ready to be harvested. Ashraf Ali Bhanbro, a farmer in Sindh province said that, "We have gone back 50 years," after the cotton and sugarcane crop on his 2,500 acres of land got wiped out by the flood.

Flood-affected people use cot to salvage belongings from their nearby flooded home caused by heavy rain, in Qambar Shahdadkot district of Sindh Province, of Pakistan.

Sindh province in Pakistan's south is one of the worst hit areas with more than 33 million people getting affected by the floods caused by record monsoon rains in the country.

The province is bisected by the mighty Indus River, along whose banks farming has flourished for millennia with records of irrigation systems dating back to 4,000 BC.

The two-fold problem in Sindh

The Sindh province has to fight a two-front war with water as the region is drenched by record rains locally and the incoming water instead of getting drained is being met by the overflowing water channel of the Indus. Indus is flowing at full flow, swollen by tributaries in the north, and has burst its banks in several places.

This aerial photograph shows a flooded residential area after heavy monsoon rains in Dadu district of Sindh province

"At one stage it rained continuously for 72 hours," said Bhanbro, adding he has lost at least 270 million rupees ($1.2 million) on inputs alone.

"That was the cost incurred on fertilisers and pesticides... we don't include profit, which might have been much higher as it was a bumper crop."

Not only the standing crop has been affected but if the flooded farmlands are not drained in time, farmers like Bhanbro will not be able to plant a winter wheat crop which is vital for the country's food security.

Bhanbro said, "We have one month. If water is not discharged in that period, there will be no wheat," at his farm in Sammu Khan village, around 40 kilometres (25 miles) northeast of Sukkur.

Pakistan was for years self-sufficient in wheat production, but more recently has relied on imports to ensure silos are full as part of its strategic reserves.

Wheat imports will hit hard on the exchequer

Islamabad cannot afford imports of food grains even if it purchases discounted grain from Russia, as is being discussed.

Farmer Ashraf Ali Bhanbro stands beside his cotton crops damaged by flood waters at Sammu Khan Bhanbro village in Sukkur, Sindh province.

Pakistan is already under a huge amount of debt and owes billions to foreign creditors. Only last week, Pakistan managed to convince the International Monetary Fund to resume funding that can't even service foreign debt, let alone pay a flood-damage bill estimated at $10 billion.

Like water the problem has spilled beyond the farmlands

Driving along an elevated highway from Sukkur to Sammu Khan provides a shocking view of the devastation wrought by the floods.

Flood-affected people wade through a flooded area caused by heavy rain, in Qambar Shahdadkot district of Sindh Province, of Pakistan, 

In some places, water has taken over swaths of farmland where once the cotton crops stood. Still the cotton crops can be seen amidst water with their leaves turned brown and hardly any cotton boll to be found.

"Let's forget the cotton," said Latif Dinno, a farmer in Saleh Pat, 30 kilometres northeast of Sukkur.

The big landowners will likely ride out the floods, but tens of thousands of farm labourers face terrible hardships.

The worst hit is the small farmers who rely on labouring on large fields by picking crops and doing subsistence farming on small landholdings in villages scattered across the province.

Those small plots too are under water, and tens of thousands have fled their flooded homes to seek shelter on higher ground.

"There is nothing left to pick," said Saeed Baloch, who labours every season with members of his extended family, pooling their earnings.

Not only the farmers but every link in the supply chain is feeling the strain.

A labourer walks past cotton crops damaged by flood waters at Sammu Khan Bhanbro village in Sukkur, Sindh province.

"We are doomed," said Waseem Ahmed, a cotton trader in Saleh Pat, who like many in the industry paid advances to fix purchase prices and hedge against inflation and market fluctuation.

"Against 200 maund (about 8,000 kg, 18,000 pounds) expected, only 35 maund has been reaped," he said, adding he had shelved plans to expand his business.

"The market is shut down and even the ginning factories are closed," trader Ahmed said, pointing to a row of closed shops.

The sense of helplessness is overwhelming, but cotton picker Dinno hopes for divine intervention. "We look up to Allah. He is the ultimate saviour," he said.

(With inputs from AFP)

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First Published:3 Sep 2022, 03:47 PM IST
HomeNewsWorldPakistan floods: ‘Have gone back 50 years’, say farmers counting losses

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