Kaukab Iqbal dreams to see Pakistan green,
particularly the coastal areas which offer an ideal climate to plant
coconut and oil palms. Impressed by lush green beaches and coastal
areas and influenced by coconut plantations in such countries of the
region as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India and Malaysia he happened to
visit after doing his graduation from Mehran University Sindh he feels
that planting coconut and oil palms will not only help enhance the
natural beauty but can also help reduce edible oil imports
significantly. "If coconut and oil palms plantations can be
developed in these countries what stops us to develop them here",
he argues. Kaukab says he started a free coconut and oil palm
consultancy service a decade ago. Encouraged by the interest shown by
the then Governor of Sindh, Moinuddin Haider (now the Interior
Minister), he founded Pakistan Coconut and Oil Palm Plantation Society
four years ago. He is currently the chairman of the Society which
focuses on creating public awareness as well as decimates information
to interested growers.
By Syed M. Aslam
Mar 25 - 31, 2002
PAGE: Do we have the right climate
for coconut and oil palm plantation?
Kaukab Iqbal: Absolutely. May be even
better. The provinces of Sindh and Balochistan have an ideal climate
to grow both coconut and oil palms. Our studies show that while oil
palms in Malaysia starts bearing fruit after an average of five years
in Pakistan they start bearing fruit one year early. We have the ideal
climate to plant coconut and oil palms as far as 100 miles within the
coastal areas. Mirpur Khas, Tando Muhammad Khan, Badin and Thatta in
Sindh and Ormara, Vindar and Hub in Balochistan are the most suitable
areas to develop coconut and oil palms plantations.
PAGE: Do coconut and oil palms
plantations needs lot of water?
Kaukab Iqbal: They require water like all
other plants and thus are most suitable to grow in irrigation-fed
areas. However, the water requirements can be met through tubewells as
well as treated water which can also serve as manure. As is, some 35
million gallon of water is lost everyday in Karachi as the Treatment
Plant at Mauripur (TP3) is unable to treat all the used water in the
city. This vast quantity of used water which is only partially treated
is dumped into the sea. If we can treat this vast quantity of water
entirely and use it to grow coconut and oil palms it would not only
turn Karachi seaside into soothing green but would also help reduce
air and water pollution.
PAGE: What about the economics?
Kaukab Iqbal: We are spending some 33
billion rupees on the import of edible oil at present which is second
only to the bill of POL imports. This can be reduced if we choose to
develop coconut and oil palms plantations on a commercial scale.
Coconut and oil palm plantation offers great profits to the growers at
much lower comparative costs than other oil seeds. For instance, on an
average 64 oil palms can be developed on a single acre the cost of
which from sowing to full maturity of 7-8 years totals about Rs
15,000- Rs 5,000 for soil preparation, fertilizer and plantation plus
Rs 2,000 for 64 samplings each supplied by the Oil Seed Development
Board at a subsidized price of Rs 30 and about Rs 1,000 each for the
remaining 7 years. The income per acre from the same after deducting
all expenses comes to Rs 55,000 per year. Oil palm also offers the
best average productivity over major oilseeds — 3,232 oil equivalent
kilogram per hectare for palm oil plus 460.8 for palm kernel compared
to 552.5 for rapeseed, 527 for sunflower seed, 405.2 for soybean,
379.1 for coconut oil and 193.8 for cottonseed.
PAGE: But the growers would have to
wait for 7-8 years for the returns?
Kaukab Iqbal: Yes that's one of the factors
discouraging plantation. However, we advice growers to grow such
seasonal cash crops as vegetables to support themselves while the
plants reach maturity. It may be remembered that while oil palms start
bearing fruit as early as within four years here in Pakistan, they are
only good for oil extraction from the sixth year while full crops
start in the 7th and the 8th year.
PAGE: What is required to encourage
Kaukab Iqbal: While coconut farming is going
on for the last 18 years it is still low by any standard. All are
entirely dependent on imported fresh coconut, dried coconut and palm
oil. Only the green coconut containing water is produced locally. Only
600 acres of land in the two coastal provinces are under coconut
plantation all in the private sector. The government should follow the
Malaysian and Sri Lankan models — Malaysia, the major producer of
palm oil in the world, has palm states while Sri Lanka has declared
coastal areas as coconut states. Corporate farming should also be
encouraged with the help of the private sector particularly the
multinational companies. In addition, the small sector farming should
also be encouraged by allocating 4-5 acres of land to local growers in
the coastal belt of Sindh and Balochistan.