SCOPE FOR OF OILSEED CROPS IN BALOCHISTAN
BY SYED FAZL-E-HAIDER
Sep 17 - 23, 2007
Oilseed crops are the important source of edible oil. Edible oil is the essential product, which has to be imported by the government to meet the demand of domestic consumption. Pakistan annually imports about 1.3 million tons of edible oil products, led by palm oil, mostly from Malaysia, to meet a domestic demand of 1.9 million tons. Pakistan spends annually 400 to 700 million dollars on import of edible oil to fulfil domestic needs. According to an estimate, the total production of Banola oil is around 450,000 tones; sunflower 77,000 tones, canola 32,000 tones and other oilseeds are 700 tones per year in the country. Palm oil and soybean are being imported in a large quantity, while other seeds are being produced within the country. As many as Rs. 28 million are being spent on the import of edible oil every year. There is a high need to improve oil seed production in Pakistan so as to reduce edible oil import and attain autarky in this sector.
The rainfed areas provide great scope for large-scale production of oilseed crops in Balochistan. Oilseed crops are the important source of edible oil. The canola, sunflower and groundnut are the oilseed crops, which may be produced in arid areas of the province. According to an estimate groundnut contains 50 percent oil, sunflower contains 45 percent and the canola also has a good content of oil. These three oilseed crops are not produced traditionally in Balochistan, as the growers cultivate mustard and rapeseed as a matter of tradition. There is a need to make serious efforts on the part of government to tap the production potential of canola, sunflower and groundnut in rainfed areas of Balochistan. The research studies have pointed out that the three non-traditional oilseed crops have high return for the growers in terms of profit.
There is a need to change traditional cropping pattern in arid areas of Balochistan by cultivating canola, sunflower and groundnut. The government should patronize the local growers in this regard. The recent experience of cultivation of sunflower in Pakistan failed to reduce the edible oil import bill of Pakistan.
SCOPE FOR PALM CULTIVATION
Coastal areas of Balochistan have vast potentials and scope for palm cultivation. The Coastal belt of the province spreads over 760km along Arabian Sea and makes up two third of Pakistan entire coastal length. Gwadar and Lasbela districts share the coastal belt and Jiwani is the last point close to the Iranian border.
The inhabitants of coastal belt of Balochistan, which starts from Somiani, Vinder, Liari, Ormara, Pasni, Gwadar, Jiwani to Peshukan near Iran, enjoy the availability of vast arable land for growing palm trees in bulk. They at present have the only option of growing date trees, which do not bring enough economic benefits for them, as they lack the marketing and export facilities in the area. Both date trees and palm trees with the exception of climatic conditions have been having common features of growth and maturity. The people of coastal areas may be convinced for switching over to palm cultivation.
The construction of Mekran coastal highway and Mirani dam in Mekran and availability of around 100,000 acres arable land along Balochistan coast brightens the prospects for palm cultivation and setting up palm oil based industries and economic benefits for the people of the coastal areas. The people of coastal areas may be convinced to grow palm trees by offering them attractive packages. The diversification of cropping pattern would bring a change turning coastal belt into a green land and a hub of economic activities.
Balochistan provides sufficient land and required climatic conditions for cultivation of palm and developing palm oil projects. Palm cultivation requires a hot climate and sixty percent humidity in air. Palm trees take 4 to 7 years for complete growth and maturity. They need at least 50mm rains and 2000 hours of sunrays in a year. Under military administration some steps were taken in this connection. The Malaysian government was asked to extend help for promoting palm cultivation in coastal areas of Sindh and Balochistan. There is a need to undertake a comprehensive feasibility survey for growing palm trees in coastal areas.
The Mega projects like Gwadar port, Mirani dam and coastal highway will certainly change the economic landscape of Mekran. It has now better infrastructure facilities after completion coastal highway linking up both Gwadar and Karachi ports. The highway will link up Liari, Ormara, Pasni, Gwadar and Gabd making an access to Iranian border. The completion of Mirani dam has made possible the modern agriculture extension services meeting the demand of water-starved 100,000 acres of land at a distance from the Balochistan coast.
Gwadar as regional hub for industrial and commercial activities would prompt the agriculturists, growers and industrialists to maximize cultivation of palm trees and establishing more palm oil based industries in coastal belt of Balochistan. It would provide a better trade and commerce venue for the production from palm oil based industries in the coastal areas.
There is a high need to tap palm cultivation potential of Balochistan coast. Efforts in this direction should come first from the official circles to encourage the local growers for cultivation of palm and mobilize the private investors for making investment in palm oil development projects in the coastal belt of the province. It is worth mentioning that the military government encouraged diversification of cropping pattern in the province and local growers switched over from paddy to cotton cultivation as the government announced attractive packages including free of cost distribution of cotton-seeds, particularly quality seeds, among local growers. The present government should also announce incentive packages for potential investors in palm oil sector in Balochistan and follow a policy of diversifying the agricultural products in coastal areas of the province encouraging the local growers who opt for switching over from dates to palm cultivation.
Palm cultivation and development of oil industries in the coastal belt of the province will boost the economic activities benefiting the local people in terms of creation of jobs. Development of one palm oil production project may pave the way for more investment in palm oil sector serving as a model for others to follow the suit. The government should launch an experimental project acquiring 1000 acres of land in the coastal belt, allocate finance and provide technical expertise, seeking foreign assistance if required, to make the project a success. Such an experimental project if succeeds to achieve the desired result would surely attract the investors to invest in palm cultivation and palm oil projects in coastal areas of the province.