Potato is a starchy and fibrous crop and is known as complete food due to its nutritive values. It is a dicot plant, having Solanaceae family. It ranks at 4th after Rice, Wheat and Maize in the world. It has been an important food crop for growers and consumers not only in Pakistan but all over the globe. It is a crop that can generate high production and more income with more nourishing value. It attained its high rank among the most important crops due to its high volume of production and benefits. Its high returns attract the farmer to cultivate more and more. Globally it is playing a key role in food security and rising as a big source against hunger. It is assuming that one day it will be a leading crop and the hunger from the earth will be eaten by it.
In Pakistan, at the time of independence the total area under potato cultivation was about 3,000 ha and now the figure has jumped high and it has increased to 107,000 ha. Increase in area under cultivation shows that how much our farmers are interested to grow potato.
Not only the area has increased but during the same time period the average yield per hectare has also been increased from about 9,000 kg to 24,000 kg. Pakistan ranks at 19th position in the world with total produce of 4,104,400 tons. (Year: 2012. Source: FAOSTAT, 2014).
Pakistan has become self-sufficient in potato production for its domestic use and seed development. More than 99 per cent seed for potato cultivation produced locally.
Currently, it has been reported that the total annual production, after post-harvest losses, of potato in Pakistan is 1800 million kg, out of which only 280 million kg is used for seed purpose. Its consumption estimate for 132 million people is 9.3 kg per capita per annum.
Enhancement in the production of potato is just due to the application of modern technologies and utilization of new seed varieties. White potatoes and the red potatoes are the major contributors in potato production by volume in Pakistan. Due to the application of modern techniques in the production of potato, Pakistan is not only fulfilling its requirements for local consumption but it is also exporting potato. Pakistan is exporting potato to Russia, Sri Lanka, central Asian States, UAE and Malaysia. Sri Lanka and Russia were the major buyers of potato in 2013 and also in 2014. The target for exporter to export the potato in 2013 was set to 200,000 MT. The major portion from the set goal, about 35 per cent, was bought by Sri Lanka and Russia. In 2013, with the shipment of about 200,000 tones potato exports bred $60 million revenue.
One of the leading potato exporters Haji Shahjahan says the most growing areas of potato belong to Sahiwal, Okara, Dibalpur, Burewala, Arifwala, Kasur, Sialkot, Sheikhupura, Lahore and Gujranwala in Punjab and contribute 83 per cent. Dir, Nowshera and Mansehra from the KPK contribute 10 per cent. Killa Saifulla, Kalat and Pishin from Balochistan contribute 6 per cent and some areas of Sindh including Hyderabad and Karachi contribute 1 per cent in the total production of Pakistan. Punjab always contributes the major portion of potatoes production.
The annual production of potato from Punjab, Pakistan, is 3606,000 tons, reported by the department of Agriculture, Punjab. Total area covered by potato in Punjab is 4 lakh and an average production is 243 mound per acre (9720 kg/acre) or 600.21 mounds per ha (24008.4 kg/ha).
Waheed Ahmed, Co-chairman of All Pakistan Fruits Exporters, Importers and Merchants Association, has reported that $9.9 million have been earned with the consignment of 33,000 tons of potato exports to the Middle East, Far East etc. from Pakistan, till the month of May. The export was started from January 2014. However, export target was 350,000 tons for 2014 which is all set to be missed miserably.
Potatoes have three growing seasons in Pakistan, Spring, Summer and Autumn. In Spring season, potato is planted in January-February and harvested in month of April-May. In summer, planting is done in March-May and harvested in August-October and In Autumn, potatoes planting is done in September-October and harvest in January-February. Share of potato crop in annual production of spring, summer and autumn is estimated to 10, 15 and 75 per cent, respectively. Pakistan has had a big shortage of potato since the start of March due to less production from the spring season and poor post-harvest handling such as storage and transportation, which affects the quality of the produce and in spring, production is also reduced by rapid multiplication of virus vector (Myzus persicae), spreading of other bacterial and fungus disease. Finally 30-40 per cent of the certified seed, that has been produced locally, will be multiplied in next season.
We need to improve the crop management by controlling the pest and disease, crop rotation, proper land preparation, application of fertilizer and irrigation at proper time. We should reduce the post-harvest losses by improving the transportation and storage facilities. Introduction and development of disease, pest and temperature resistance varieties in the country can improve Pakistans status regarding potato. Farmer should be well aware about its current problems and proper harvesting of crop. When we will overcome such constraints and adopt new technologies, then the production will definitely boost up. We will get good quality produce for seed purpose and for consumption as well. So ultimately we will be able to export our produce as a seed to other countries to strength the economy of Pakistan.
The authors are associated with the Plant Genetics Resources Laboratory, Dept. of Plant Breeding and Genetics University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan. They can be reached at <firstname.lastname@example.org>