POTENTIAL AREAS FOR OILSEEDS PRODUCTION IN PAKISTAN
Pakistan is facing a severe deficit of edible oils. Despite the fact that Pakistan is overwhelmingly an agrarian economy, it is unable to produce edible oils sufficient for domestic needs and substantial amount of foreign exchange is being spent on the import of edible oils. Total current edible oil requirement is 2.38 million tons, out of which local production is 0.83 million tons.The burden due to the import of edible oils on the exchequer necessitates an increase in the domestic production of oilseeds. There is huge gap between consumption and domestic production of edible oils and if this trend continues, the gap is going to be further wider. Currently, the production gap is about 1.6 million tons.The burden due to the import of edible oils on the exchequer necessitates an increase in the domestic production of oilseeds. There is huge gap between consumption and domestic production of edible oils and if this trend continues, the gap is going to be further wider. Currently, the production gap is about 1.6 million tons.
It is possible to increase area of oilseeds in different agro-ecological zones where it can compete with other crops because oilseeds are having low water requirement. These potential areas include:
- a) Coastal areas b) Barani areas c) Rod-kohi areas; and d) Dobari lands in Sindh and Punjab provinces.
In addition, there is potential for introducing high-yielding varieties of oilseeds based on ecology and availability of water. For example, certain varieties of palm oil and coconuts can be grown in coastal areas. The plantation of coconut and oil palm along the coastal areas would not only help to make to produce edible oils, but it would also help to provide surface cover. Similarly, there is a scope for growing olive in the mountainous region. Olive plant grows well in temperate climates of Balochistan and Northern Areas but it also grows well in Barani areas. Barani areas have the potential to produce oilseeds. There is a large contingent of oilseeds that proved to be promising including rapeseed/mustard, canola, groundnut, sunflower, safflower and sesame.
Groundnut is an important oilseed crop having 33% oil contents. Groundnut requires light soils and due to this specific requirement, its cultivation remained confined to sandy soils. Canola, a promising oilseed with high yield potential, can also be grown in Barani areas5. Similarly, in Barani areas, most of the cultivable land is kept fallow, when monsoon rains are adequate to provide water for summer oilseed crops like soybeans. Experience of sunflower was not that rewarding due to heavy monsoon rains which affect sunflower. In the Dobari lands of Sindh and Balochistan provinces, safflower can be grown as Dobari crop using residual moisture of rice harvested fields.
Sunflower has gained higher popularity and acreage for boosting production of edible oils. The important features of this crop are short growing period (3-4 months), with high yield potential (about 4 tons/ha) and wide range of growing season viz. autumn, spring and winter. It fits well in different cropping patterns, low water requirement, and wide adaptability to soil and moisture conditions. It is a crop well adapted to drought and it is being grown with increasing success in semi-arid environments. Sunflower has potential to be grown in both irrigated and Barani areas. It responds positively to irrigation in low rainfall areas.6
Similarly, Canola also has the potential to meet the domestic requirement of edible oils. Canola is a type of brassica, which has higher yield potential as compared with other brassica varieties7. Its oil being free of pungency and with highest content of mono and poly unsaturated fatty acids is being used as health food. It can be cultivated on all kind of lands except on saline soils and sandy lands. It requires about 3-4 irrigations during the growing season). Presently, Canola is producing 1.34 tons’/ha oilseeds against the potential of 3 tons/ha. However, yield of Canola has been fluctuating over the time. Maximum yield was 1.5 tons/ha for the year 2002-03 (GOP 2004). Its harvesting at optimum time is important because early harvesting can reduce seed quality and late harvesting can enhance shattering.
Conclusion: Increase in yield close to the potential will not help the country to achieve self-sufficiency in edible oils until the area is quadrupled.8 Policy support is necessary to encourage the oilseed production. Government must create attractive and conducive environment through the establishment of an effective and regulated market structure for oilseeds in the private sector. Government should come up with an effective procurement system.
Author: Javaria Amin
BSc(hons) Agri Sciences
University of Agriculture, Faisalabad