Food security: Dutch potato seeds offered as solution

Expert underlines need for proactive role of private sector to provide quality seeds at affordable prices

Our Correspondent April 13, 2016


Private companies have been urged to launch a multiplication of Dutch potato seeds in Pakistan with a view to reducing input cost of farmers as well as establishing a vibrant seed industry in the country.

The relationship between Pakistani potato growers and Dutch seed producers is ‘decades-old’ and there have been good harvests in the country, especially in Punjab over the years, said Romke Wustman, a Dutch expert, who has over 30 years of experience in potato seed research and production.

“The use of Dutch potato seeds by local growers is in fact a partnership. I will not call it  dependence on Dutch potato seeds when it comes to its import but rather, it is an association based on constant feedback of Pakistani farmers to which the Dutch seed producers respond in the shape of providing far better seed varieties every time,” he added.

Talking to a select group of journalists before concluding his visit to Pakistan, Wustman underlined the need for more proactive role of the private sector for provision of quality seed for growers at relatively affordable prices. Instead of importing seed in bulk, he observed, the local private seed companies should come forward and multiply Dutch seed in northern areas.

“The Netherlands is one of the world’s largest exporters of agriculture produces and biggest exporters of potato seeds,” Wustman remarked, adding that though the export of potato seeds to Pakistan from the Netherlands may get affected due to the multiplication of imported seeds locally, but it would be relatively better for the farmers and seed industry.

“In fact, it is a win-win situation for both,” he said.

According to Wustman, over 400 varieties of potato seeds have been registered in the Netherlands and out of about a million tons of potato seeds, 70% are exported to over 80 countries including Pakistan.

Highlighting the role of potatoes in ensuring food security in this part of the world, he said potato was the fourth biggest crop of Pakistan in terms of production. “It provides livelihood to hundreds of thousands of families of farmers besides partly meeting the food requirements of millions of people. It is one of the cheapest yet nutritious foods available to most Pakistanis,” he said.

“The potato consumption has grown significantly in Pakistan over the last decade and it has the potential to continue the upward trend in years to come,” he observed.

To further strengthen national food security, Wustman opined that Pakistan would have to adopt modern agricultural technologies especially in terms of seed development for achieving the goal of sustainable production.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 13th, 2016.

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