Pakistan Floods Destroyed $3.27 Billion in Crops

Pakistan’s deadliest floods ruined crops worth 281.6 billion rupees ($3.27 billion), destroying rice, cotton and sugar, said Farm Minister Nazar Muhammad Gondal.

The country lost 2.39 million metric tons of rice and 10.4 million tons of standing sugar cane, the minister said in an interview today in Islamabad. The nation may also import 2.8 million bales of cotton, he said.

By ripping out crops, stores and 4,000 kilometers of roads, the floods boosted food prices and may push annual inflation to 20 percent, according to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. The inundations affected 20 million people, killing more than 1,800 and damaging 1.9 million homes, the government said. The losses helped push rice in Chicago to the highest level since May and boosted cotton to the most expensive in 15 years in New York.

“There will be pressure on exports,” Rakesh Singh, a rice trader at Emmsons International Ltd., said by phone from New Delhi. The country may still ship 3 million tons after a bumper crop last year, said Singh.

Gondal’s assessment of rice losses is higher than the 1.5 million tons estimated by Malik Jahangir, chairman of the Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan, on Sept. 1. The minister didn’t say whether the number was rough or milled rice.

With some new areas being flooded in the southern province of Sindh, “we will need another month to finalize our estimates for the immediate crop losses,” Gondal said today.

Staple Crops

Exports from Pakistan, the third-biggest rice supplier, may plunge 35 percent to 3 million tons in the year started July 1 from 4.6 million tons the previous year, according to Jahangir.

Wheat and rice are the two staples for Pakistan’s people, and the government and international relief agencies have found it hard to provide food for affected areas. The United Nations said damage to infrastructure may hurt farmers for years.

The country, the third-largest cotton user, may import 50 percent more this year, said an industry official Sept. 21. Imports may reach 3 million bales, up from 2 million last year, according to Muhammad Arshad, a vice president at the Pakistan Central Cotton committee, a government-supported organization.

The nation is also Asia’s third-biggest sugar user and may import 1 million tons next year after the floods damaged 15 percent of the cane crop, a farmers’ group said this month.

Sugar mills may produce 3 million tons against a target of 3.5 million tons in 2011 because less cane will be available, said Ibrahim Mughal, chairman of the Agri Forum Pakistan. “That means we would need to import 1 million tons of raw or refined sugar to meet demand,” he said.

Pakistan consumes 4 million tons of sugar a year and needs shipments to bolster supply and reduce record domestic prices. The government has approved duty-free imports of raw sugar by mills and traders.

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