30/1/05 PAKISTAN - The population of Pakistan has increased from 32.5million in 1947 to 149.5 million currently. The consumption of edible oilhas also been increased proportionally from 0.3 million tons to 1.95million tons during the last two decades. The population is increasing ata rapid rate but the production is meagre and fluctuating.
The total production of edible oil in the country is 550,000 tons, about29 per cent of the domestic requirements, while about 71 per cent is metthrough imports. It is either directly imported or is crushed from theimported seeds of sunflower and canola.
Palm oil is imported from Malaysia, Norway, Singapore and South Korea andsoybean from Malaysia, Argentina, Singapore and Switzerland. Huge amountof national income is spent on imports. The edible oil import bill hadincreased from Rs2.3 billion in 1979-1980 to Rs40.5 billion in 1998-1999.It is the second most important item on import list consuming aconsiderable foreign exchange. There are two sources of edible oil,conventional and non-conventional crops.
The former are cultivated traditionally and include cottonseed, rapeseed,mustard, sesame and groundnut. sunflower, safflower and soybean arenon-conventional introduced in 60s in the backdrop of green revolution.The contribution of cottonseed and rapeseed in total domestic requirementsis 80 per cent. Sesame and corn oil contribute three per cent. On theother hand, the contribution of non-conventional crops is only 17 percent.
During the course of history, several governments have tried to increaseits production. Efforts were made to increase the area undernon-conventional crops. Neither area nor production could increase to agreater extent. Production is lower than the potential. In the same way,yield of oil crops per unit area is lower than other counties.
A number of factors are contributing to this poor situation. Sunflower isan important crop having potential to become major oil seed crop. However,its sowing season overlaps the sowing season of wheat. Owing to bettersupport prices and marketing system available for wheat, farmers are boundto grow wheat.
In cotton zone, farmers are reluctant to grow sunflower because itsmaturity period overlaps the sowing season of cotton and thus causes delayin the sowing of the latter. This delay results in significant reductionof lint yield. Sunflower is an exhaustive crop. It consumes a large amountof nutrients essential from growth and depletes the soil from thenutrients. Farmers add huge amount of fertilizers to get good yield ofcotton. After harvesting of sunflower, the attack of inset, pest anddiseases increase on cotton crop.
Non-availability of modern technology for sunflower and canola is animpediment to increase the area under these crops. Cultivation practicesare not standardized and varieties for different climatic zones are notevolved.
Average yields are very low. The yields of rapeseed, cottonseed,sunflower, soybean and canola is 750, 1244, 1810, 1207 and 1246 kilogramsper hectares, respectively. The non-availability of hybrid seeds, highcost of foreign imported hybrid seed, high cost of storage, lack of dryingfacilities, lack of modern production technology, use of marginal lands,non-availability of short duration varieties, lack of rhizobium inoculum,low prices of farmers' produce and high harvesting cost are factorshindering the farmers to adopt non-conventional oilseed crops in croprotation. It is a high time that this poor situation was averted to meetdomestic demand.
It is important to popularize the cultivation of sunflower among thefarming community. Evolution of early maturing varieties, stabilization ofsupport prices and strengthening of the marketing system are incentivesthat may prove helpful in this direction. It also important to prevent theexploitation of growers. It is a usual practice that importers of edibleoil decrease the prices of edible oil as the maturity period of oil seedcrops approaches. The government should establish the purchasing centresto help farmers.
Courtesy: The DAWN