Pakistan is an enriched country for agricultural crops cereal, sugar, fibre, pulses, oilseed crops etc. It is advancing comparatively better in major crops but oilseed crops are still showing poor progress. During 2013-14, total requirement of edible oil was 2.325 million tons with local production 0.606 (26 per cent) million tons and Import 1.719 (74 per cent) million tons having import bill Rs.148.633 billion. The population is increasing rapidly with 1.95 per cent (2014) growth rate that is greater than the mean growth rate of South Asian countries. Pakistan has been endowed with productive soil and seasons to grow important oil seed crops – canola, sunflower, olive and oil palm. Therefore, it must be prerequisite to raise and promote the conventional as well as novel oilseed crops for the development of our country. It will not only fulfill the local requirements but will also prove a potential source to save billions of rupees consumed by import.
Canola and Sunflower:
Canola and sunflower are important edible oil seed crops in Pakistan and all over the world. Canola has 1 per cent share in local oil production. Oil contents vary from 38-45 per cent. During 2013-14, total cultivated area was 38 thousand acre with 421 kg per acre average seed yield. The yield potential of existed varieties is 1000-1150 kg per acre. There is a yield gap of 579 to 729 kg per acre that can be minimized by facilitating and accessing the farmers. This will give 8.8-11.1 thousand tons of extra edible oil from current cultivated area, decrease 0.52% edible oil export and save Rs.886 million.
In the world, top producer of sunflower is Ukraine and 2nd number is of Russia. In Pakistan, total current cultivated area is 523,000 acres. The share of sunflower in local production is 16.7 per cent. Average seed yield is 506.7 kg per acre as compared to potential yield which is 1250-1375 kg per acre. If this yield gap is eliminated, then extra earning will be Rs.19-22.5 billion and 10-12 per cent edible oil export will be decreased.
According to climatic conditions of Pakistan, canola and sunflower compete with wheat for inputs and land. So it will, possibly, be difficult to increase the considerable area of these two oilseed crops as wheat demand is increasing in relation to growing population. It means more attention should be given to breeding of higher yielding varieties and excellent agronomic practices. In upcoming, perhaps olive and palm oilseed crops will be focused dominantly due to their appreciated yield potential and availability of vast areas which are otherwise not suitable for traditional crops.
Olive fruit has best quality edible oil for human usage. According to an estimate, suitable areas of more than 800,000 hectares had been identified for olive production in Pakistan. More than 44 million wild olive trees are already existed in Pakistan. The identified potential areas are present in KPK, Punjab and Balochistan. It is esteemed that BARI Chakwal had introduced many high yielding varieties regarding climatic and soil conditions of Pakistan. There is variation in all varieties with respect to oil contents i.e. Sevellano has 22.65 per cent oil contents, Frontoio 19.39 per cent and Ottobrattica 17.31 per cent. Few hundred hectares have been planted in each province. According to an educated guess, one can earn a minimum profit of annually Rs.157,000 from one hectare from barren land and hilly areas. Olive tree bears annually 25 Kg fruit, 18 per cent oil contents, 416 trees/ hectare so Pakistan will produce 1.497 million tons of olive oil, international market rate $ 3602.34/tons. Pakistan will save $5.269 billion or Rs.526.976 billion annually. It will be possible only if the government manifests its curiosity and launch mega projects.
Oil palm is an important plant for obtaining edible oil, food and fibre in the world. In Pakistan, there are suitable climatic and soil circumstances to cultivate this crop in coastal areas. Pakistan has coastline of about 880 km length. The healthy plants bear fruit within 30-40 months with an average life of 25 years. An oil palm tree yields 10-12 fruit bunches per annum, weight of each bunch is 10-20 kgs with 1000-3000 fruits per bunch. The two parts of fruit produced oil; kernel and mesocarp. Palm kernel has 46 per cent and palm mesocarp 21 per cent oil contents. Malaysia is getting 5.22 tons oil yield with 148 palm trees per hectare. If Pakistan will cultivate palm trees on five lac acres coastal areas then production will be 1.056 million tons. It will save Rs.84.5 billion.
There is an urgent need to promote the cultivation of oil palm on large area. Coastal areas must be evaluated to discover more and more suitable lands. It is appreciated that the governments of Sindh and Balochistan are investing on small projects but the countrys circumstances is demanding giant projects at national level.
Oilseed industries can accelerate the socio-economic development of the poor. This can be possible by building an effective collaboration among federal and provincial governments, agricultural institutes, NGOs and growers. Nurseries should be grown locally by educating and facilitating the agricultural scientists with modern biotechnological and molecular breeding techniques. The government should assist growers with interest free inputs, plants, and information.
If all these resources are utilized efficiently, billions of rupees can be saved currently being spent on oil import. In two to three decades, Pakistan can enjoy the status of self-productive edible oil if oilseed crops are accurately managed.
The writers are a) student of M.Sc. (Hons.) Plant Breeding and Genetics, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, and b) Assistant Professor, Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad.
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