The population of Pakistan has increased from 32.5 million in 1947 to 149.5 million currently. The consumption of edible oil has also been increased proportionally from 0.3 million tons to 1.95 million tons during the last two decades. The population is increasing at a rapid rate but the production is meagre and fluctuating.
The total production of edible oil in the country is 550,000 tons, about 29 per cent of the domestic requirements, while about 71 per cent is met through imports. It is either directly imported or is crushed from the imported seeds of sunflower and canola.
Palm oil is imported from Malaysia, Norway, Singapore and South Korea and soybean from Malaysia, Argentina, Singapore and Switzerland. Huge amount of national income is spent on imports. The edible oil import bill had increased 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 a considerable 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 are non-conventional introduced in 60s in the backdrop of green revolution. The contribution of cottonseed and rapeseed in total domestic requirements is 80 per cent. Sesame and corn oil contribute three per cent. On the other hand, the contribution of non-conventional crops is only 17 per cent.
During the course of history, several governments have tried to increase its production. Efforts were made to increase the area under non-conventional crops. Neither area nor production could increase to a greater 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 is an important crop having potential to become major oil seed crop. However, its sowing season overlaps the sowing season of wheat. Owing to better support prices and marketing system available for wheat, farmers are bound to grow wheat.
In cotton zone, farmers are reluctant to grow sunflower because its maturity period overlaps the sowing season of cotton and thus causes delay in the sowing of the latter. This delay results in significant reduction of lint yield. Sunflower is an exhaustive crop. It consumes a large amount of nutrients essential from growth and depletes the soil from the nutrients. Farmers add huge amount of fertilizers to get good yield of cotton. After harvesting of sunflower, the attack of inset, pest and diseases increase on cotton crop.
Non-availability of modern technology for sunflower and canola is an impediment to increase the area under these crops. Cultivation practices are not standardized and varieties for different climatic zones are not evolved.
Average yields are very low. The yields of rapeseed, cottonseed, sunflower, soybean and canola is 750, 1244, 1810, 1207 and 1246 kilograms per hectares, respectively. The non-availability of hybrid seeds, high cost of foreign imported hybrid seed, high cost of storage, lack of drying facilities, 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 factors hindering the farmers to adopt non-conventional oilseed crops in crop rotation. It is a high time that this poor situation was averted to meet domestic demand.
It is important to popularize the cultivation of sunflower among the farming community. Evolution of early maturing varieties, stabilization of support prices and strengthening of the marketing system are incentives that may prove helpful in this direction. It also important to prevent the exploitation of growers. It is a usual practice that importers of edible oil decrease the prices of edible oil as the maturity period of oil seed crops approaches. The government should establish the purchasing centres to help farmers.
Courtesy: The DAWN