Sunflower cultivation on the decline in Punjab
STAFF REPORT LHR: As sunflower sowing has started in Punjab, the situation appears grim for the crop as it has lost almost 65pc of area to other competitive crops, coming down from 242,000 acres in 2009 to 86,500 acres in 2016.
The drop occurred when officials palanned to double the area during the same period from 242,000 acres to 480,000 acres. The sunflower acreage lost, has gone to wheat and maize, and, to a lesser extent, sugarcane.
The official plan of doubling the acreage in Punjab was aimed at controlling swelling edible oil import bill, which in the first nine months of last year, had crossed $1.37 billion. In the entire 2015 the total bill was $1.93 billion.
In fact, wheat production and its stuck-up stocks both at federal and provincial levels are already testing official financial and administrative capacity.
The edible oil producing crops (mustard and sunflower) suffer from official neglect. Though running a pulses promotion programme, Punjab has almost conceded to the market forces which are dictating crop pricing.
All these crops have huge unresolved marketing issues. The farmers have been sowing sunflower on soils either left over by wheat or in water-stressed areas. Now they are abandoning even that practice. The pulses price, which doubled, even tripled in the last few years proves the point for pulses and drop in acreage for sunflower.
This situation calls for an integrated approach, which could ensure return on the crop for farmers and also add to yield and also absorb changes in weather.
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