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Sunflower Farming Needs a Boost




  • The edible oil requirements have increased from 0.3 million tons to 1.95 million tons. Per capita consumption of edible oil is around 14-15kg as against an average of 8-9kg for developing countries. But the production of edible oil has remained inadequate and fluctuating.So, the requirements are met by supplementing local production with imports. Of the total requirements, 29.15 per cent is met from the local production and the remaining 70.85 per cent through imports.

     

    The edible oil requirements have increased from 0.3 million tons to 1.95 million tons. Per capita consumption of edible oil is around 14-15kg as against an average of 8-9kg for developing countries. But the production of edible oil has remained inadequate and fluctuating.So, the requirements are met by supplementing local production with imports. Of the total requirements, 29.15 per cent is met from the local production and the remaining 70.85 per cent through imports.Oil is either imported or extracted from the imported seeds. Palm oil is imported from Malaysia, Norway, Singapore and South Korea while soybean oil from Malaysia, Argentina, Singapore and Switzerland.
    Edible oil imports are a drain on the national exchequer which have increased from Rs2.3 billion in 1979-80 to Rs40.5 billion in 1998-99 and are now the second important item on import list. In 2002-03, crops were cultivated on 1.1 million hectares with the total production of edible oil seed at 52.06 million tons with an average yield of 4,7324kg per hectare.
    Locally, oil is extracted from the seeds of traditional and non-traditional crops. These include cottonseed, rapeseed, mustard, sesame and groundnut. Sunflower, safflower and soybean are non-traditional crops introduced in mid-60s. Contribution of traditional crops in local production is higher than the non-traditional. Cottonseed and rapeseed contribute 80 per cent while sesame and corn oil around three per cent. However, non-traditional crops contribute 17 per cent.Sunflower has potential to reduce imports by 30 per cent along with canola in five years provided focus is given on increasing the area and production. The acreage of sunflower has increased from 2,39,000 acres in 1995-96 to 3,98,000 acres in 2002-03, while oil seed production from 1,16,000 tons to 2,78, 000 tons during the same period.
    Oil extraction from sunflower seed has also increased from 106 tons in 1995-06 to 42,000 tons in 2002-03. Per acre yield of sunflower is higher than other traditional and non-traditional oil seed crops.Unfortunately, the farming community does not attach much importance to its cultivation due to the lack of awareness, marketing problems and mindset despite the fact that this crop has a lifecycle of 90 to 120 days, best suited to the farming community.
    By bringing more acreage under this crop as well as increasing per acre yield through soil and crop management practices, it is possible to increase production. Per acre yield can be increased by introducing higher yielding, early maturing and insect, pest and disease-resistant hybrids, the availability of other inputs such as fertilizers, irrigation etc., and adoption of modern technology. Cultivation of sunflower is possible in winter, spring and autumn.
    Quality seed is essential for higher yield per unit area. It is possible to enhance production by 10 to 20 per cent by using seed which is viable, healthy, vigorous and free from weeds and diseases. The government should provide resources to research centres involved in the introduction of hybrid seeds carrying desirable characteristics. However, private sector should also be encouraged in production of hybrid seeds of sunflower and dissemination to growers because private-public coordination yields better results.
    Bed plantation of sunflower gives 15 per cent higher yield than the broadcasting method. This method also conserves 45 per cent water.The acreage of sunflower can be increased by carrying cultivation on marginal lands, inter-cropping and replacement of some traditional crops like rapeseed and mustard.About 6.17 million hectares are salt affected soils, which comprises of 60 per cent of cultivable canal command area. It can be managed through incorporation of gypsum and sulphuric or nitric acids in proper amounts and application of proper amount of fertilizers, inclusion of green manure crops in a suitable cropping pattern and deep ploughing with chisel plough to reduce the severity of salinity/ sodicity.Similarly, water-logged and eroded soils can be managed through management practices and these soils can be made productive for sunflower crop.
    Similarly, small farmers with 5-12.5 acres who are about 93 per cent of the agricultural community can be attracted toward cultivation of sunflower through provision of inputs like seed, fertilizers, irrigation and credit because these farmers have low financial capacity. Adequate support prices and efficient marketing system can also prove good incentives for encouraging small farmers to grow
    sunflower.Inter-cropping of sunflower in wheat, sugarcane and potato can also help in increasing the area under sunflower cultivation. Every government has tried to increase edible oil production. The Pakistan Oil Seed Development Board was entrusted to execute productivity enhancement programme in 1996-97 whose main focus was on area and production expansion. However, neither area nor production could be increased.Under the given rice-wheat and cotton-wheat cropping system, cultivators of sunflower are facing problems. Sowing time of sunflower overlaps with that of wheat crop. Farmers prefer wheat due to better support prices and viable marketing system.Maturity period of sunflower overlaps the sowing season of cotton which causes delay in cotton sowing. Hence, farmers are reluctant to grow sunflower because delay in cotton sowing causes significant yield reduction.Sunflower is an exhaustive crop requiring abundant of fertilizers, a bumper crop and the following cotton. Moreover, the incidence of insect, pests and diseases on cotton increases after the harvest of sunflower crop. These constraints are hampering the efforts of the government and discouraging the farmers to increase acreage under sunflower.
    It is important to increase local production by popularizing non-traditional crops, particularly sunflower instead of low-yielding traditional oil seed crops. The marketing system should not allow importers to exploit the local producers as it is a usual practice with the importers to depress the market prices of imported edible oil as crops reach maturity to discourage local cultivation.

    By: Bilal Hassan

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