1.4 Food Security
Food security can be broadly divided into four components:
Availability of food in terms of sufficient quantity available through domestic production or imports
Access to adequate resources given the socio-political and economic arrangements of the community
Utilization Refers to the body’s ability to make use of the nutrients provided. This requires clean water sanitation and health care
Stability includes an all-time access and utilization of food without any fear of losing it due to any shock (natural calamity, economic shock). This component points out to sustainability of food in an area.
In Pakistan, some assessments of household food security have been carried out of rural households but very little information is available on food security status of urban households. Since 1960s, the UN has been working in Pakistan towards improved food security and FAO identifies the lack of data availability (in quantity and quality) as a serious problem. It has been acknowledged that in Pakistan "there is little direct data on coping mechanisms. This is an area where primary data might have to be collected". Need for assessment of urban food insecurity has also been highlighted in FAO country strategy plan.
As mentioned above in the agriculture section, major crops are not grown in Karachi. Only fruits and vegetables are grown in some areas of this city. Tomato, onion, potato, cabbage, cauliflower, turnip, cucumber and carrot, coconut, chikoo, guava, papaya, banana and citrus are produced in this district. As far as cereal food is concerned, Karachi is extremely deficit in production for its food requirements. In addition to cereals, animal based food (meat, milk, milk products) availability is also important for total food availability, which is extremely deficit in the district. Combining both the crop based and animal based food production, district Karachi is extremely deficit in food production. However, being the trade and financial hub of Pakistan, the trade and economic activities of this city ensures the availability of staple food. Karachi is well-integrated with not only other districts of Pakistan, but also with the rest of the world. Hence, irrespective of the deficiency in food production, this district has the availability of food through imports.
Per capita availability of food items alone is not a reliable indicator of food security. If the available food is socio-economically not accessible to the masses, it cannot make a society food secure. The income level of the households reflects access to food, capacity of consumption and even food poverty.
As mentioned above, Karachi is the hub of financial and other economic activities and there are a number of earning opportunities for the masses. One of Karachi’s key comparative advantages is the low cost of labour. The low wage work force lives primarily in katchi abadis (slums) that run along waterways and on government owned land in pockets throughout the urbanised area. Many poor people work near where they live, which reduces commuting costs and helps keep wages low. Due to the availability of relatively low-cost housing near employment areas, Karachi is known in Pakistan as a poor-friendly city. As the average monthly income of a household (HH) in Karachi city is more than Rs.20, 000/- which is considered as a reasonable income. The regional comparison of inflation reveals that inflation in Karachi is lowest among all major cities after Faisalabad.
Child dependency (ratio between children and household members in the economically active age group) is one of the limiting factors in meeting the daily needs of households and is an important indicator to measure access to food. The increased dependency ratio enhances the spending of the household on child care and food, which results in per capita reduction of socio-economic access to food. Child dependency ratio is reasonable in this district. The share of household expenditures on food is 75%, of the total income in Karachi. Hence the city has adequate level of income and relatively low inflation. The overall access component of food security is reasonable for district Karachi.