Efforts required for curtailing edible oil import

PAKISTAN IS facing the edible oil scarcity and consequently has to depend on imports to meet domestic need, which requires huge amount of hard earned foreign exchange. Total requirement of the edible oil in 2012-13 was 3.069 million tons while local production from all the sources was only 0.567 million tons. There is an enormous gap between utilization and production of edible oil, to fill this gap 2.502 million tonnes was imported at the cost of Rs. 214.94 billion (Govt. of Pakistan, 2013-14).

Among the major oilseed crops cottonseed, rapeseed, mustard, canola, sunflower, safflower, groundnut and sesame are included. Cotton seed is a major source of edible oil. Oilseed crops like rapeseed, mustard, linseed, corn and groundnut are conventional crops. In the comparison of non-conventional crops such as sesame, sunflower and soybean per acre yield of conventional crops is low. Much attention must be given towards the non-traditional crops to decrease the import bill. Mainly palm and soybean oil are imported by Pakistan from various countries like Argentina, Malaysia, Norway, Singapore, South Korea and Switzerland.

Although demand of oil is increasing day by day but its production is very much slow. Area under the cultivation of oilseed crops in last two decades is constantly declining as farmers prefer to grow cereal crops due to staple food and good return in the form of fixed price. Sowing season of most of the oilseed crops collapses with the Rabi crops. Another reason is that farmers do not give much attention to use the suitable cultivation technique, better agronomic practices at the cultivation time of oilseed crops. Taking a side all these reasons, major fault is at the marketing level and badly government is also not initiating any progressive step. An attractive fixed price of oilseed crops is not offered as are fixed for the cereal grains thats why these are ignored by the growers.

But continuing the hope, there are various ways to increase the local production and lessening the edible oil shortage. One way is to increase the area of cultivation for oilseed crops in different agro-ecological areas where there is water scarcity. Cultivation of the oilseed crops on marginal lands, intercropping and replacement of some traditional crops such as cottonseed, rapeseed and mustard is also another way to decrease the gap between consumption and local production. Water logged, salt affected soils and eroded soil can be managed through practices and can be made productive land for sunflower crop (non-traditional). Area as well as cropping intensity can also be expanded through inter-cropping of selected oilseed crops in wheat, sugarcane and potato. Production of the oilseed crops can be amplified by introducing higher yielding hybrids, early mature cultivars, resistant to diseases, insects, pests and use of the inputs such as fertilizers, irrigation and incorporation of the modern new technologies.

Recently oilseed research group team of the Plant Breeding and Genetics department, University of Agriculture Faisalabad has developed an elite line UAF-11 of Brassica napus which has the potential to produce 30-40 monds/acre. It is also short duration crop takes only 100-120 days. Utilization of such lines and more opportunities must be providing to improve the further oilseed crops for the better production.

Cultivation of the sunflower crop i.e. non-traditional has a great potential to lessen the import of edible oil by 30% along with canola. Its oil is considered as premium oil due to high smoke point, light color, good in taste, high polyunsaturated fatty acids and bundle of vitamin A, D, E and K. It also has great ability to grow on the poorly nutrient soil. But focus must be on to increase cultivated area under sunflower, and use of better management practices for vigorous yield. Seed quality is also basic element to get higher yield of oilseed crop. It can increase the 10-20% production of sunflower.

Soybean another non-traditional crop has also great potential for the oil production. A big parentage of the soybean is imported from the different countries to fulfill the demand of the country. As in Brazil, scientists used the conventional techniques (breeding schemes) and made the soybean (temperate climate crop) tropical crop for the rolling plains of the Mato Grosso state. This way of improvement of Brazilian scientists also fits well in Pakistan due the tropical climate. Early mature and acid soil tolerant varieties are also developed for their state and became the second largest producer of soybean after USA. Similarly such techniques can be applied on the olive and coconut trees to make them fit in our climate.

Like other oilseed crops sesame is also more suitable in Pakistan due to the crop of tropical and subtropical climate. Scientists have improved the sesame line as Fazal Din and his colleagues in Ayub Agricultural Research Institute has developed varieties i.e. Til-89 and Ts-3 that gives the productive yield. Proper production technology of such varieties and seed availability must be ensured to the farmers.

In Pakistan almond, walnut, pistachio and peanut are mostly used for the edible purpose whilst these are also the big source of the oil extraction. Other than these, oil can also be extracted from the different sources which are considered as waste such as rice bran, coriander and mango stone.

Concluding all the discussion it is need of time to focus on the oilseed group to save the import bill. Use of the non-conventional oilseed crops along with conventional crops, proper management practices, development of the early mature and high yielding cultivars, availability of the seeds to the farmers, strong marketing system, attention of the government and use of the new modern technologies, not only can fulfill the local requirement of the edible oil but we can also become among the major importers.

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