Global warming and inflation: Securing food security is a task that Pakistan cannot ignore

Global warming and inflation: Securing food security is a task that Pakistan cannot ignore


A facility in Singapore produces 20 times more fish per hectare than traditional open-net cage farms

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LAHORE (Web Desk) – Despite being an agri-based economy, food security is now a challenge for Pakistan as rising cost of production has now combined with the wider global warming threat which disrupted the weather and thus crop pattern amid rising temperatures, irregular rains and the resultant water scarcity.

With the input costs reaching alarming levels, the food prices have skyrocketed in Pakistan at a rate which is much higher than other countries, including neighbouring India, meaning more and more people are finding it hard to meet their food intake requirements given the high inflation and shrinking purchasing power.

Read more: Rising cost of production: Farmers have cultivated wheat but there is neither urea nor rains

In fact, lack of nutritious food is becoming a serious health threat for a vast majority of population.

Thus, the challenge for Pakistan is not just increase per acre crop yield but also minimise the use of natural resources like water and reduce the production cost. Certainly, the combined effects of inflation and climate change have worsened the crisis and made the consequences even more evident.

However, we can learn lessons from and others adapt to the changing times – a process that needs unlearning, relearning and learning new ideas.

Unexpectedly, the latest example comes from Singapore – a small country which is certainly not known for agriculture and food production.

So, here comes a story by AFP.


A high-tech fish farm floats just off the coast of Singapore, part of a plan by a retired engineer who once built oil rigs to bring diners cleaner, healthier seafood.

The tiny city-state imports 90 per cent of its food but hopes to locally source about a third of it by 2030 to guard against supply disruptions such as climate change, disease and conflict.

So officials are backing projects such as Eco Ark, a giant aquafarm that produces seabass, grouper and threadfin for restaurant tables across the city of nearly six million.

The facility harvests 30,000 kilogrammes a month, which ex-engineer Leow Ban Tat, founder of Eco Ark and the Aquaculture Centre of Excellence, says is 20 times more per hectare than traditional open-net cage farms.

Read more: Climate change means poverty for many. Is Pakistan ready to address the challenge?

"There is a great difference in what we do because we believe in technology," Leow, who once built oil rigs, told AFP.

The structure, which sits on a purpose-built submersible platform, filters seawater through an ozone machine to kill disease-causing pathogens before then transferring it into fish tanks six metres deep.

The tanks simulate ocean conditions to keep the fish swimming against the current, making them leaner and more nutritious, and shield them from threats such as disease, plankton blooms and oil spills.

Leow, 65, said the water is so clean that, unlike other farms, Eco Ark has no need to add antibiotics, which help protect fish from disease but can cause resistance in humans over time and affect the environment.

Adult fish are given frozen squid as well as pelleted feed, with younger ones also given probiotics "which helps with both digestion and physiological function and improves the performance of the animal", he said.

Leow is also looking to cut emissions from his "fish farms of the future" by adding solar panels and has built a hatchery after finding that juvenile fish imported from Malaysia and Australia carried diseases.

Eco Ark's fish are delivered to more than 80 restaurants, supermarkets and specialty shops that put a premium on them being freshly harvested and healthy.

Leow hopes eventually to export not only the fish but the technology for the Eco Ark, which he says can be built near coastal areas to shorten delivery time and cut costs.

Daniel Teo, the co-founder of Singapore's Kin Hoi restaurant, which buys fish from the Eco Ark facility, said: "It is very important that local farmers (who) actually know the economy" should be encouraged to help meet demand.

Food security has become a major issue for Singapore, roughly the size of New York City but without the space to meet its agricultural and industrial needs, so funding has been granted for everything from rooftop vegetable farms to Eco Ark's fish farm.

However, Madhumitha Ardhanari, principal sustainability strategist at the Forum for the Future non-profit group, said Singaporean fish farmers' heavy reliance on government subsidies raised concerns about their long-term survival.

Kin Hoi diner Martin Pei had no complaints as he polished off a portion of fried seabass from Eco Ark. "The fish was really delicious," he said. "Just eating it, I didn't know that it was farmed."