Pakistan aims to boost oilseed cultivation

Hopes to curb heavy dependence on edible oil imports

August 12, 2023
A farmer holds hybrid red chili pepper seeds on his palm as he plants saplings, in Kunri, Umerkot, Pakistan, March 18, 2022. Devastating floods across Pakistan in August and September after several years of high temperatures, have left chilli farmers struggling in a country heavily dependent on agriculture, where officials have estimated $40 billion of flood damages. "When I was a child, the heat was never so intense. We used to have a plentiful crop, now it has become so hot, and the rains are so scarce that our yields have dwindled," farmer Leman Raj, 40, said. REUTERS


Pakistan is eyeing an increase in oilseed cultivation as a strategic move to curb its heavy dependence on edible oil imports. The annual consumption of edible oil in the country stands at approximately 5 million tonnes, yet due to the limited local market potential for oilseeds, farmers have been less inclined to cultivate them. This has led to the country importing about 89 percent of its edible oil requirement, incurring an annual expense of $3.6 billion.

Speaking at a consultative meeting focused on promoting oilseeds cultivation, Iftikhar Ali Sahoo, Secretary of the Agriculture Department of Punjab, highlighted the rising global demand for oilseeds. He stated, “By increasing the area under cultivation of oil products, we can not only fulfil our own needs of edible oil, but also possibly earn a lot of foreign exchange.”

China, a key ally of Pakistan, has faced a similar challenge in the past and made significant strides in overcoming it. China’s annual cooking oil consumption reached around 13.44 million tonnes last year. The country managed to address its domestic supply shortages by promoting the cultivation of brassica napus, a variety of rapeseed that is disease-resistant and boasts high yields.

The Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) has been instrumental in developing new rapeseed varieties, which have been adopted in some northern regions of China. The success of these efforts has enabled China to rotate rapeseed crops with staple crops like rice and wheat, maximising land utilisation.

Pakistan is now tapping into this experience by collaborating with Chinese company Wuhan Qingfa-Hesheng and Pakistani firm Evyol Group. Together, they are providing high-quality hybrid rapeseeds to Pakistani farmers. Ghazanfar Ali, head of marketing at Evyol Group, emphasised the suitability of their variety for local climate conditions. “It took us 10 years to produce a variety that is compatible with the local climate, produces a good yield and is good for human health,” he said, noting that farmers can achieve 1.5 tonnes of yield from 2 acres of land, surpassing current varieties available in Pakistan by over 10%.

Zhou Xusheng, director of the international business department at Wuhan Qingfa-Hesheng Seed company, outlined their ambitions. “This year we sold 11 tonnes of seeds across Pakistan, which will be cultivated on 20,000 acres, and our target for next year is 100 tonnes.” He also highlighted their intention to purchase the canola harvest from certain farmers and supply it to edible oil factories, thereby promoting the benefits of locally-produced oil.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 12th, 2023.

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