RAWLAKOT: Azad Jammu Kashmir President Masood Khan on Tuesday said that coronavirus patients, throughout this pandemic, have relied heavily on herbs and spices, in addition to allopathic prescriptions, to treat their disease. In his opening remarks at a webinar, organized by the University of Poonch in Rawlakot, on food security challenges during Covid-19, he said that the researchers through clinical trials can establish the medicinal value of herbs that are collected mostly by herders and nomads in Azad Kashmir. He urged universities and research institutions to explore responses to catastrophes directly impinging on food security in the post-Covid-19 period. He said that the universities specializing in agriculture should recommend the ways and means to mitigate the impacts of food inflation. The president expressed his hope that the impacts of food inflation, especially of wheat flour, sugar, fresh milk, eggs, and other staple items in the low-income population of rural and urban would be mitigated. He suggested to create a durable interface between health and food systems, real-time authentic data generation and further improvement in governance. He said that a multi-departmental preparedness and response strategy to be implemented in collaboration with the private sector and civil society must be hammered out. Expressing concern over the huge pressures put by the Covid-19 pandemic on health and food systems, President Masood Khan said that the food prices have risen by 38 percent across the globe while the price of wheat, which is a staple in Pakistan, had increased by 28 percent. By and large, food supply in Azad Kashmir has been smooth because of the decisions taken by the governments of Pakistan and AJK, he said, adding that most of Azad Kashmir’s food supplies – wheat, flour, sugar, pulses, vegetables, and fruits came from Pakistan. He said that despite relief programmers, citizens have gone through periods of economic hardship that linger on. FOOD, NUTRITION EMERGENCY During strict lockdown after the first corona wave, he said that governments, philanthropists and charity organizations had stepped forward to supply essential food items to the families of daily wagers and seasonal workers while hoarding and price gouging by retailers, especially of wheat and sugar, were effectively monitored and penalized. Masood Khan said that the governance to deal with the pandemic has saved hundreds of thousands of lives in Azad Kashmir and Pakistan. “It would be worthwhile to seek informed opinion of agronomists about cumulative effect of the current or projected pandemics on fragile economies so that remedial measures could be taken beforehand, he said. “As we know from experience, febrile activity following an outbreak contributes to uncertainty and panic,” he said, adding that objective of the government and academia was to enhance food security and make agricultural sector sustainable for meeting future challenges. He said that timely actions have been taken to avert a national food and nutrition emergency.