Prospects of oil palm cultivation in Pakistan

Millions of acres of barren land along coastal areas from Karachi to Gwadar to be brought under cultivation

By Dr. S.M.Alam & R.Ansari
Nuclear Institute of Agriculture, Tandojam

June 28 - July 04,1999

The oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) is an important plant for obtaining edible oil for human consumption and manufacture other accessories. The chances of bringing millions of acres land, along the coastal area from Karachi (Sindh) to Gwadar (Balochistan) lying barren and unused, are bright and suitable for cultivation of oil palm seedlings. The area from Karachi to Gwadar, covering a distance of about 700 kilometers, lies between 62F and 68F longitude and 24N and 26N latitude. The entire area has highly variable relief and land forms. Aridity is the main characteristic feature of this region. Pasni and Gwadar are more hot and dry than Karachi.

The altitude of the area is not more than 190 meter from the sea level. It is commonly barren desert and handicapped by lack of water and subject to extreme heat. The area is least influenced by summer monsoons. The annual rainfall may be as low as 25 mm and 75 mm. The rain fall in western lower Sindh (Karachi coast) is comparatively larger than in Makran coasts.

The mean maximum temperature of the hottest month ranges from 32C to 40C, occasionally exceeding as high as 48C. Humidity is high and there is steady fast sea breeze in the summer, owing to which, the temperature is slightly moderate near the coast. It has been reported that climatic conditions in these areas are quite conducive and suitable for the cultivation of palm oil. If the cultivation of palm oil becomes successful in these areas then the country will be in a position to produce edible oil locally and this will reduce the huge import bill of this commodity as well as soybean. The country spends nearly $ 800 million on the import of palm oil and soybean annually. Informations have been gathered that about 5,000 acres of land on the coastal areas of Sindh and nearly some size of land along the coastal areas of Balochistan would be brought under oil palm seedling in the near future. The Pakistan Oilseed Development Board has acquired supernumbery seedlings of oil palm (nearly 1.10 million plants) from Malaysia and Sri Lanka to be planted in the coastal areas of the two provinces. Of course, some remedial measures have been taken by the government including efforts to go into plantation of palm gardens within the country.

Characteristic: All vegetable oils including palm oil are generally cholesterol free. Human studies have confirmed that palm oil reduces plasma cholesterol as compared to the partially hydrogenated oils. The cholesterolic effects of liquid fraction of palm oil are comparable to cotton seed and olive oils. Palm oil is an evenly balanced oil with 50 per cent saturation and 50 per cent unsaturation. Palm oil does not have medium carbon chain acids. It has high concentration of long carbon chain oleic and palmitic acids.

Palm oil is a nutritious and a safe vegetable oil approved by WHO/FAO Codex International Standards of many countries of the world including Pakistan. Palm oil is not sold in Pakistan as a cooking oil. It is commonly used in Vanaspati formulation along with the hydrogenated cotton seed or soybean oils. Palm oil is a naturally semi-solid oil naturally a much superior product as compared to hydrogenated cotton seed or soybean semi-solid fats. Such statements have been released by the WHO/FAO experts. Palm oil is consumed in all countries of the world. Pakistan is one of the biggest consumers of palm oil besides China, India, Japan, Europe and the Middle Eastern countries. On the world basis, 90 per cent of palm oil goes for edible and only 10 per cent inedible purpose.