Apr 21 - 27, 2008

Oil seeds is a very important crop but oil seeds production of Pakistan is meeting only one third of edible oils requirement of Pakistan, while two third is met through imports.

From being self- sufficient in the past, the country has turned into a major importer of edible oils. Imports of edible oils remain one of the heaviest and unjustifiable burdens on the foreign exchange reserves of the country, which reflects the most inconsistent policy and failure of the past governments in reducing this burden by not exploiting the abundant potentials available in the country to produce oil seeds.

The demand for vegetable ghee extracted from oil seeds has doubled in the last 15 years due to ever increasing population and increase in per capita consumption of vegetable ghee, whereas on the other hand area has declined and production plus yield has remained static. Pakistan has to meet 70 percent of its ever-increasing edible oil demand by spending billions of rupees on its import. It was Rs.0.135 billion in 1970-71, which shot up to Rs.40.53 billion in 1998-99. However, next year i.e. 1999-00 the import bill decreased to Rs.21.40 and in 2000-01 to Rs.19.04 billion but it again rose to as high as Rs.39.28 billion in 2002-03. That is indicative that during last eleven years the import bill increased mainly due to increase in per capita consumption, escalation in prices of edible oils, higher inflation and speedily bulging population. The country is currently a major importer of palm oil.

Steps were initiated in 1970's to increase and promote non-traditional oil seeds such as sunflower, safflower and soybean. This strategy has enabled Pakistan to bring significant increase in traditional and nontraditional oil seeds crops. Then in early 80's there has been an effort to increase the production of oil seeds. Sunflower is getting round but soybean and safflower cultivation is declining both in area and production. Encouragingly substantial gains have been achieved in sunflower and canola production. The sailaba lands of Balochistan are being brought under sunflower cultivation.

Traditional crops of rapeseed and mustard, ground nut and sesamum have been the main oil seeds next to the dominant share of cotton seeds. Rapeseed and mustard have shown little varietals improvement and are traditionally grown mainly on relatively poor lands. -







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Source: Agricultural Statistics of Pakistan.

The total availability of edible oils in 2005-06 was 2.905 million tons. The local production stood at 0.793 million tons, which accounts for 27 percent of total availability while remaining 73 percent was made available through imports. During 2006-07 (July to March) local production of edible oils is provisionally estimated at 0.855 million tons.


A study has shown that the Potowar area, which is almost totally dependent upon rain-water, has great potential to bring down the import burden of the country to meet its edible oils demand. For that sake the Potowar area can be declared and dealt as edible zone as rice zone and cotton zone. There is a big contingent of oil seed crops that have virtually proved to be promising in Potowar area including rapeseed, mustard, groundnut. sunflower, sesame and olive.


RAPESEED AND MUSTARD OIL: Although rapeseed and mustard have been grown traditionally for oil extraction for years and years, their oil was not found fit for human consumption because of its pungent smell and bitter taste due the presence of erucic acid, which is a toxic compound.

CANOLA OIL: Recently cultivars named canola have been developed and its oil has been found fit for cooking and human consumption. Canola oil is thus becoming much popular for local consumption.

GROUNDNUT OR PEANUT OIL: Groundnut or peanut is an important oilseed crop of Potwar area farming system. Groundnut oil is edible and serves as excellent cooking oil. The unshelled nuts have 33 percent oil. It is free of any toxic compound. Groundnut crop requires light soil to facilitate penetration of the flower pegs into the soil for pod formation. Light soils also offer easy digging and minimum harvest and post harvest losses. Due to this specific requirement, its cultivation remained confined to sandy and light soil, which is in abundance in Rawalpindi division. Land of district Chakwal has been found the best for its cultivation.

SUNFLOWER: Sunflower seed contains 25-32 percent oil. Sunflower was introduced in Pakistan during the early sixties as an oil crop. The sunflower was grown on a maximum area of 144,190 hectares during 1998-99, with 194,540 tons production. During 2002-03 it was grown on an area of 107,720 hectares producing 128,530 tons seed. Appreciably, sunflower oil is comparable with olive oil. It is rich in linoleic, the essential fatty acid. It is thus considered valuable cooking oil. Canola can be successfully grown in summer on fallow lands.

SESAME: Sesame is a low moisture-loving crop and can be gown better in rain-fed areas and on left over moisture. Having deep roots and meeting its water requirements from the soil as deep as 2 to 3 meters, it can reclaim soils with high water table. In spite of its advantages, its promotion is restrained because of its spiny nature and long period of maturity. However, new spineless varieties can help its propagation and promotion.

SESAME: Being one of the most ancient oilseed crop grown in the Indo-Pak Sub-Continent, it requires more light and heat. On the other hand it is sensitive to low temperature. Noticeably, its seed contains 45 to 55 percent oil content. Its oil is of good quality, odourless and is not likely to become stale and rotten. The most advantageous aspect of growing sesame is its short duration besides its adoption to marginal lands. It has, therefore, got large scope for expansion in rain-fed areas.

COTTONSEED: The country's major indigenous source of edible soil is cottonseed. Oil content in cottonseed is 10 to 12 percent, while it is 32 percent in rapeseed, 37 percent in sunflower. Therefore, in spite of the fact that the size of cotton crop in the country has shown substantial increase over the last 50 year, the availability of cottonseed oil remains much below the domestic requirement of the population.

OLIVE: The scribe has already comprehensively written on Zaitun (Olive), which is a popular oil crop of the world. Its fruit contains edible oil, which is used both for cooking, massage and medication. However, because of its high price in the market, it is out of the reach of a common man. A study conducted by NWFP Agriculture Research Centre reveals that the province of NWFP can earn $3.5 billion annually from export of olive oil by bringing high rain-fed areas under olive cultivation. Two million acres of cultivable waste land and uncultivated forest areas can be brought under olive cultivation in the high rain-fall zone of the NWFP and if olive produced is exported at a minimum value of $2000 per ton, exports can fetch nearly $3.5 billion annually. NWFP already has 30 million wild olive trees, which can be converted to varieties compatible to the domesticated varieties suitable for procurement of olive oil.

For olive propagation, PODB is implementing the following two projects:

- Rapid conversion of wild olive trees into oil bearing species.

- New plantation of olive in NWFP, Potowar and Balochistan and maintenance of the orchards especially by PODB.

These projects are located at Fateh Jang, Islamabad (Bara Kahul) of Potowar area, in Zhob, Bakhan of Balochistan, Swat, Malakand, Burner, Swabi, Mardan, Peshawar, Nowshera, Banu, Kohat, Karak, Hangu and Hazara of NWFP.

According to the news (December 14, 2007) the Federal Government has planned to enhance olive oil production and processing areas in 12 districts of Balochistan to bring 6000 acres of farmers' land under olive orchards.

An official MINFAL states that during five years about 675,000 plants would be sown in these low delta crop districts for mass production. Olive plants already grown in different areas of Balochistan Khuzdar, Loralai, Quetta, Pishi, Zhob, Sibi etc. have given good indications for the promotion of olive in Balochistan.


- Potowar and other raid-fed areas, where for certain reasons, other major crops like wheat, rice, cotton, sugarcane etc. cannot be grown profitably and substantially, some of the oilseed crops can be cultivated successfully. These areas like cotton growing area and rice growing areas should be declared as "oilseed zones".

- Farmers should be provided certified seed of oilseeds along with proper extension service, know-how for obtaining better yields quality-wise as well quantity-wise and other inputs at affordable costs to enable farmers get maximum production.

- Reasonable support prices of respective oilseeds e.g. sunflower, cottonseed, rapeseed, mustard etc. should be fixed by the Government well in time so that farmers may work hard in their own interest.

- The government should always help out farmers in facilitating marketing of their products at support prices so that they may not feel any difficulty in selling out their produce without any inordinate delay.

- If the government is serious to make Pakistan self sufficient in edible oils to save extra burden on its foreign exchange reserves, it can create much better market facilities for the farmers by persuading industrialists to install oil expellers in oil-seed zones. This suggestion finds ample support from the fact that in areas where there are sugar mills, farmers prefer to grow sugarcane and where there are corn-processing units, farmers have preferred to grow more and more corn.

- Recently an experimental joint cultivation of sugarcane and canola has proven successful. If both these crops are grown together, farmers will not only get the benefit of sugarcane crop, but will also be able to earn Rs.25,000 to Rs.30,000 additionally from canola. The Agriculture Extension should properly educate the farmers for getting this additional benefit. This can go a long way in poverty alleviation in rural areas.