Dec 27, 2010 - Jan 2, 20

Pakistan is importing edible oil worth US$1.7 billion annually and the figure may go up to US$2 billion owing to price fluctuation.

Pakistan's domestic edible oil production from all sources has grown 2.56 per cent annually over the last 20 years, whereas the domestic consumption is increasing at annual rate of 7.7 per cent. This indigenous production could not match the growing demand of production.

Experts believe that spending of forex on the import of edible oil should be a matter of concern for an agricultural country. They said climate is another driver towards revamping our agronomic practices keeping in view the Agro-Ecological zones. "We have to shift our focus towards high value crops rather than traditional crops."

Pakistan Oil Seed Development Board (PODB) had already identified 80,000 hectares cultivated land in Northern parts of country for the cultivation of olive. Growth of solvent plants during last 5 years jumped from 20 to 72 respectively while the PODB recommended 3 million acres land for the cultivation of oil seeds crops, they said. "We should have to maximize the production of Soybean, Maize and other oil seed crops," they said.

The government had announced increase in the sunflower support price from the existing Rs1,600 to Rs2,000 per 40 kilogram. "The oil seed companies have assured that they would purchase sunflower from the farmers at Rs2,000 per 40 kilogram," official sources said.

According to them, the enhancement in support price is also aimed at encouraging the balanced crop system, which was affected after the increase in wheat support price that had attracted farmers towards enhancing wheat cultivation area.

They said that the enhancement in sunflower support price would not only help encourage balanced crop system but would also help increase edible oil production to reduce dependence on the imports and thereby save billions of rupees.

He said that the cultivation areas for the sunflower crop would also be increased from last yearís 872,000 acres to 1,145,000 acres this year to enhance production from 51,300 metric tons to 71,100 metric tons respectively. Further, the government with the support of USAID has been providing hybrid seed and fertilizer to the farmers adding that the farmers have already been supported in cultivating the canola crop.

They further said that canola crop cultivation area was also enhanced from 57,000 acres last year to 100,000 acres this year to increase oil production from 68,000 metric tons to 100,000 metric tons.

They said that it was only chemical fertilizer that help produce crops even four times a year to meet increasing demands, and it could not be done through the utilization of organic fertilizer.

Further, the prices of urea have increased by 9 percent on average from June 2009 to June 2010 whereas its prices have increased on average by 12 percent from December 2009 to December 2010.

Similarly, the prices of DAP have increased by 36.17 percent on average from June 2009 to June 2010 whereas its prices have increased on average by 5.6 percent from December 2009 to December 2010.