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SUNFLOWER: ESSENTIAL EDIBLE OIL CROP IN PAKISTAN




  • Oilseed crops have a central significance in food and economy with reference to Agriculture. There is a severe shortage of edible oil in Pakistan. Due to increase in human population the demand of edible oil is mounting whereas production of edible is decreasing every year. The native edible oil production does not match the rising demand of population. During 2010, the consumption of oil and fats was 13 kg per capita per year. The local production from all sources has been raised up to 0.680 million tons, which accounts for 24% of domestic necessity of edible oil while the remaining 76% is met through imports. Pakistan is spending billions of rupees on the import of edible oil, which is a major drain on shrinking economy of the country. During 2009-10 (July-March) 1.246 million tons edible oil was imported by casting 77.78 billion rupees. Rapeseed and mustard oil is not used as regular cooking oil due to occurrence of elevated erucic acid and glucosinolates and therefore cannot be used more than 5% in oil branding for ghee manufacturing. In order to overcome the prevailing circumstances, there is an ominous need to increase per acre yield of non conventional oilseed crops. Like soybean, sunflower and safflower crops are facing problem due to their poor adaptation and various crops specific and policy issues. Soybean and Safflower make a contribution of only less than 1%.

    The oil seed crops of Pakistan include rapeseed, mustard, linseed, sesame as well as castor which are grown in this region since immemorial times and are called traditional oil seed crops while sunflower, safflower, soybean were introduced in subcontinent by importing from other regions and  are called non-traditional oil seed crops. Most of these oil seed crops are grown on a small area. In addition to these oil seed crops, three oil bearing trees olive, coconut and palm oil also sustain their presence in some agro-ecological zones of Pakistan. It is quite surprising to mention that Pakistan is unable to produce edible oil to meet its domestic edible oil demand of 2.78 million tons. Out of total domestic oil requirement, local production is only 0.83 million tons. This huge gap of production and demand is bridged and met by importing edible oil of 1.9 million tons that is 68% of total demand resultantly, Pakistan is spending US$1.7 billion annually on the import of edible oil and this figure is likely to go up to the extent US$ 2 billion owing to price fluctuation and hiking inflation in days to come which is a major drain on the precious and already scarce foreign exchange reserves of the country. Cotton seed contributes 51% of domestic oil production but the fact is that cotton which is a fiber crop, contributes more than any other source of domestic edible oil production despite the fact that oil recovery from cotton seed is quite low and now residues of pesticides in huge amounts have been detected in the oil of cotton seed. Sunflower is the second important oil seed crop which contributes about 32% of domestic oil production, while the share of canola is 17% in the total domestic oil production. Pakistan was self-sufficient in edible oils till the 50s, when it met all domestic oil requirements through domestic oil production. Pakistan started importing edible oil in 1970 when 41% of total consumption was imported. The reason behind this was that due to the construction of Tarbela dam in 1967, Mangla dam in 1971 and, Chashma dam in 1976, canal water supplies were increased to 106 MAF against 65 MAF at the time of independence. When water availability was increased, farmers adopted high delta crops such as cotton, sugarcane etc. replacing oil seed crops. This shifting trend toward high delta crops resulted in drastic reduction of area under oilseeds crops. Although among different oilseed crops of Pakistan, the share of rapeseed and mustards is 17% but the problem is that their oil quality is low because of the presence of erucic acid and glucosinolates. Taste and flavor is reduced by erucic acid while nutritional disorder develops due to glucosinolates and goiters also develop due to this chemical. Growth and reproduction of animals is affected adversely, if fed at significant level in diet.  These chemicals are present in sunflower in very minute amounts making it is highly desirable edible oil.

    Sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) is a widely spread crop all over the world due to its broad range of adaptability and high oil contents. It is one of the most vital non-conventional oilseed crops belonging to family Compositae (Asteraceae).  It is a short duration crop of 90-120 days. It has a potential to overpass the gap that exists between the domestic demands and supply of edible oil. In Pakistan it is grown on an area of 872 thousand acres with 554 thousand tons of seed and 211 tons of oil. Its achene contains 40-50% oil and 23% protein content. Sunflower oil is exclusively used for cooking purpose ; rich in vitamin A, D and contains 60% poly unsaturated fatty acids as well as 16% oleic acid and 76% linoleic acid. Sunflower oil is quite palatable because it contains soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Average yield of sunflower in Pakistan is very low (1810 kg ha-1) compared with other sunflower growing countries having average yield of 3015 kg ha-1. The reasons for low yield are less adjustment of hybrids to Pakistan’s growing conditions and imbalance use of fertilizers. All varieties and hybrids have their own unique characteristics and yield potential. Different hybrids are evolved for different regions depending upon climatic conditions and soil type. Selection of appropriate hybrids is the key factor to get maximum yield. Both quality and the quantity are improved through the adoption of good cultivars. Semi dwarf hybrids have been reported to have a better yielding capability due to increased reproductive development as compared to standard height varieties. Intensive agriculture systems in Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa necessitate short duration, early maturing and short stature hybrids. Sunflower seeds are mainly used to produce oil which has the properties of a good quality vegetable oil. Sunflower oil is lighter in taste and appearance than the oil produced from other sources. It is a mixture of mono and polyunsaturated fats but the level of saturated fat is very low. Its oil is quite palatable and soluble vitamins A, D, E and K are present in it. Its seed contains high oil content ranging from 40 to 47 percent. The protein content of sunflower cake ranges from 20-40%. Sunflower oil contains predominantly linoleic acid 48 – 74% in triglyceride form, Palmitic acid 4 – 9%. Stearic acid 1 – 7% and Oleic acid 4 – 10%. Fried seeds of sunflower has their own economic and market value.

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