UNDERPERFORMING OILSEED SECTOR

TARIQ AHMED SAEEDI
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

May 7 - 20, 20
12

Pakistan is likely to import 2.3 million metric tons (MMT) of vegetable oil in market year 2012/13 ending September 2013, indicating four per cent increase as compared to 2.2mmt estimated to be imported in the ongoing MY2011/12, says a latest report released by USDA Foreign Agriculture Service.

Local edible oil consumption stands over 3.5mmt while local production is abut 1.3mmt from cottonseed, rapeseed, and sunflower.

The oilseeds and products annual report 2012 acknowledges the capability of local famers in supplying the oilseeds to the crushing industry, noting however, there are issues that heighten the need of oilseeds import.

"Given the poor quality of local oilseeds and logistic hurdles of transporting oilseeds to crushing facilities, the domestic crushing industry has focused more on importing quality oilseeds rather than providing incentives to local growers for increased domestic production," says the report.

USDA forecasts 13 per cent rise in oilseed imports in the next marketing year at one million metric tons due to the population burst as well as mounting demand from livestock and poultry sectors.

The government itself encourages oilseed import by exempting it from import, federal excise, and central excise duties. The country is expected to import 850,000 tons of rapeseed/canola from Canada, Australia, and the Ukraine and 200,000 tons of sunflower seed from Australia during Oct-Sep 2012/13. Oilseed is crushed for food, feed, and seed.

Pakistan meets most of its local requirements of edible oil from imports. Imported edible oil accounted for 82 per cent of total availability three years back. Still, locally produced edible oils are only sufficient to meet 27 per cent of total demand in the country. The massive import of vegetable oils incurs the agriculture economy more than two billion dollars annually as import bill.

PALM OIL CONSUMPTION

Palm oil is the major imported commodity in edible oils group since it constitutes 98 per cent of total edible oils import in Pakistan. It is not that consumers are well aware of difference between palm oil and any other vegetable oils. It is because price of refined palm oil does suit food processors that normally mix palm oil with local ones to make cooking oil. The country is estimated to import 2.1mmt refined palm oil during Oct-Sept 2011/12 and in the following year, this volume would go five per cent up to 2.26mmt.

International palm oil prices are on the upward trajectory due to growing demand from India and China and storing by the Muslim countries ahead of Ramazan. The prices are likely to surpass $1,320. And, the rising trend would persist for the coming months.

Edible or vegetable oils consumption is increasing in Pakistan on diversification of exotic foreign cuisines using oil in their makings just like local culinary favourites.

Oilseed crops in Pakistan include rapeseed-mustard, groundnut, sesame, linseed, sunflower, safflower, and soybean. If there was anything positive in last 10 years in terms of area, yield, and production, it was because of sunflower, canola, rapeseed-mustard, and sesame. Otherwise, no other local oilseed crops including groundnut, linseed, safflower, and soybean showed improvement in any of the above-mentioned core areas, according to the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC).

LOCAL RESOURCES

Oilseed production in the next market year is expected to reach 5.8mmt, up eight per cent over the production estimate of this year owing to projected surge in cottonseed production, which accounts for 80 per cent of local oilseed production. Primarily, cotton is a raw material for the textile industry and its exploitation of cottonseed for oil and meal production is of secondary importance.

Overall, average yield of oilseed crops in Pakistan is much below its actual potential. For example, average yield of sunflower is 1,315 kilogramme per hectare whereas its potential is 4,200 kilogramme per hectare, indicating a 69 per cent gap in achieved and actual production, suggests a table in a report by PARC.

Similarly, 78 per cent difference exists in average yield (812 kg/ha) and yield potential (3,700 kg/ha) in case of rapeseed-mustard. Groundnut's average yield stands at 921 kg/ha as opposed to its real potential of 4,000 kg/ha. Sesame, linseed, and safflower have 748 (62 per cent), 1827 (73 per cent), and 2110 (70 per cent) kilogramme per hectare yield gaps respectively, it notes.

Fortunately, oilseed crops can be grown in all provinces in the country signifying the possibility of enhancing their productivity and production. Both southern and northern regions in Sindh province, for example, have favourite climate for oilseed production.

Thatta, Badin, Hyderabad, Naushero Feroze, parts of Dadu, Nawabshah, Khairpur, Larkana, Sukkar, Jacobabad, Shikarpur, Sanghar, Ghotki, Mirpur Khas, etc. are ecological zones of various kinds of oilseed crops.

NEED TO INCREASE LOCAL PRODUCTION

Local demand of edible oil is scaling up day by day with the disastrous increase in population. The provincial government has been delegated the responsibility of managing agriculture sector after the 18th amendment in the constitution of Pakistan. Even when that was not the power structure and only Pakistan oilseed development board was the sole authority in the centre to encourage oilseeds production, the focus remained on development of major crops and oilseed sector stood neglected, according to the findings of the USDA.

At present, the oilseed sector is to be governed by an administrative setup, which has no previous experience or lacks effective policy and regulatory frameworks to improve the crop-management.

In spite of that, as pointed out in the report if the provincial administration is able to ensure adequate machinery for planting, harvesting, and threshing, production technologies to the local growers, credible support price mechanism, and foster research culture, oilseed sector will rise to the position of meeting the entire local demand. In fact, devolution can prove effective in bringing hands-on coordination among related stakeholders, lack of which was also one of the reasons of underperforming oilseed sector.