CULTIVATION OF CHICK PEA IN PAKISTAN

M.R. CHAUDHRY
Jan 21 - 27, 2008

Chickpea (grams) cultivation is the mainstay of rural population of Thal desert areas, which are located in the districts of Khushab and Bhakkar in the province of Punjab. The desert mostly consists of rain-fed areas. Crop production generally depends upon rain-falls and distribution of rain-falls. It is also grown as a relay crop in the standing rice crop in Sindh and Balochistan. At some places chickpea is grown after harvesting paddy in Sindh in its residual moisture. Timely rains in Barani areas help a lot in boosting this crop. The increase in area mainly depends upon availability of soil moisture at the sowing time of the crop. Pakistan has a vast land and natural resource, covering various ecological and climatic zones; hence this country has great potentials for producing all types of food commodities. About 68 percent of the geographical area has annual rain-fall of 250 mm, whereas 24 percent have annual rain-fall of 250 to 500 mm. Only 8 percent area has rainfall exceeding 500 mm.

According to estimate, about 841,000 hectares of land was brought under chickpea cultivation in Punjab in 2003-04. Its production in Punjab was some 400,000 metric tons. In Sindh it is grown as dobari crop. The area under gram cultivation in the year under review in Sindh was approximately 36,000 hectares and the production was estimated to be 35,000 tons.

In Balochistan gram area was 20.3 thousand hectares and production about 10.1 thousand tons. According to estimate, a total area of 1028.90 thousand hectares is under chickpea cultivation, which is equivalent to 4.3 percent of the total cultivated area of Pakistan. It is equal to 6 percent of the total area brought under pulses in the country. Production is 479.5 thousand tons with an average yield of 466 kg per hectare. During the last decade the production in the beginning on an average was 617 kg per ha, which came down to 466 kegs per ha.

During the year, 2005-06 gram area targets were fixed at 1112.5 thousand hectares and production at 857 thousand tons. Production was estimated at 536 thousand tons from an area of 1066 thousand hectares. Gram production was badly affected by bad weather conditions.

PROVINCE-WISE TARGET DETAILS ARE AS UNDER: (2005-06)

PROVINCE

AREA 
(000 HA)

PRODUCTION (000 TONS)

YIELD KG/HA

Punjab

956.40

760.60

795

Sindh

54

49.00

907

NWFP

68

19.50

287

Balochistan

34.10

28.30

830

Total:

1112.50

857.40

771

PROVINCE-WISE ACHIEVEMENTS: (2005-6)

PROVINCE

AREA (000 HAS)

PRODUCTION (000 TONS)

YIELD KG/HA

Punjab

928

436

470

Sindh

52

46

885

NWFP

50

24

480

Balochistan

36

30

833

Total:

1066

536

503

The gram production in 2006-07 was estimated at 0.842 million tons as against the target of 0.871 million tons. However, it was higher than the previous year (2005-06) production, which according to one estimate was 536 (000) tons and according to another 0.479 million tons.

Chickpea can thrive in harsh climatic conditions, where inputs are not adequate. In Noorpur thal where possibility of other crops to sustain is grim, gram is perhaps the only crop in the cropping system that supports the subsistence farmers.

EXTRA ADVANTAGES OF GROWING GRAM

It has some extra advantages. It adds to the fertility of the soil especially in the dry areas of Thal desert by nitrogen fixation. It is capable of fixing up to 140 kg N ha-1 from air. It leaves behind substantial quantity of nitrogen for next crops and makes up loss of deficiency of organic matter in the soil, maintains its long term fertility and sustainability of the eco-system.

A good crop of gram when in full swing gives a beautiful and eye-catching look to topography. Chickpea is the most important pulse crop, which is mainly grown in the irrigated and rain-fed areas of Punjab by resource-scarce farmers especially in drought-stricken area. This crop is traditionally grown in temperate areas. Thal is the most suitable area for bulk production of this crop. Considerable headway has been made in developing some important varieties of grams befitting specific niches in crop pattern. Fallow areas have been brought under cultivation as the crop has now been developed to resist terminal drop. However, large scale adoption of the crop could not be achieved due to various socio-economic factors and technological reasons. However, when there is sufficient rain-fall, gram crop brings happiness to the cultivators of deserts engaged in growing grams.

GROWING CHICKPEA IN CHOLISTAN AND BALOCHISTAN

Now that the government is concentrating on developing vast areas of Cholistan and Balochistan, MINFAL and Pakistan Agricultural Research Council must also assess the feasibility and explore the possibilities of growing chickpea in desert areas where there is shortage of irrigation water and the farmers lack financial resources. However, there is great ray of hope of agricultural development and increase in gram production area-wise and quantity-wise on the completion of Kachhi canal, the first phase of which is expected to be completed by the end of the current year. .

VARIETIES OF CHICKPEA:

There are mainly two varieties of grams namely Kabuli and desi chana, the former being large in size and the latter smaller in size.

Punjab on an average contributes to about 80 percent. Khushab district produces 28 percent of the gram produced while the remaining comes from all districts of Punjab.

Chickpea or gram crop suffers from some diseases like severe drop and borer attack. This crop is thus recommended only for those growers, who are prepared to exercise care and caution and use excellent management skill to safeguard the crop.

POPULARITY AND IMPORTANCE OF CHICKPEA AS A FOOD ITEM:

Popularity of grams increased with the passage of time. In the beginning of 50's the market rate of gram was far less than that of wheat. Now it has far exceeded wheat in its market value for several reasons. It is a high value crop being an essential part of the diet of vegetarians in Pakistan. It provides a versatile quantity of protein for the rural and urban poor. Chickpea is mainly used for home consumption and only a small part thereof is used as a feed for the livestock.

Kabuli type gram (which is white or cream in colour) is widely used as a whole grain while desi variety (kala chana) is used as whole, de-hulled splits or in the form of flour. Roasted grams are readily available at the push carts on roads and street corners in Lahore, Rawalpindi and Islamabad and common citizens, young boys and girls eagerly eat it, as a substitute for soft food. Common people of Pakistan in Lahore, Rawalpindi and Islamabad eagerly eat "naan cholai" in their meals. It is a source of earning for those engaged in this petty business. Common people also like to eat "naan" and "murgh cholai" prepared from chicken and chickpea with spices. "Baisan ki roti" (bread prepared from ground gram flour) is eaten with butter and lassi, which is considered a tasteful snack in Punjab. Gram flour is also used in some sweetmeats and delicacies. Unani physicians prescribe it in herbal medicines for cold, cough, other diseases/ailments and in the treatment of Diabetic patients. It is also used in cosmetics. Mature chickpea can be cooked and eaten cold in salad. It is cooked in stews and, ground to get gram flour Chickpea or Bengal grams make excellent curries, which are one of the most popular vegetarian foods in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the U.K. Many popular dishes are made with chickpea flour. In the Indo-Pak Sub-Continent chickpeas are often picked out of the pod and eaten as a raw snack and the leaves are eaten as a green vegetable in salads. Gram flour is also used in preparing pudding, which is tastier than ordinary pudding.

NUTRITIONAL VALUE:

Chickpeas are a helpful source of zinc, folic and protein. They are also very high in dietary fiber and hence it is a healthy food and a rich source of carbohydrates. It contains:

23 percent protein
64 percent carbohydrates (including 47 percent starch, 6 percent soluble sugar)
5 percent fat
6 percent crude fiber
3 percent ash

Its mineral contents are:

Phosphorus

: 340 mg/100g

Calcium

: 190 mig/100g

Magnesium

: 140 mg/100g

Iron

: 7 mg/100g

Zinc

: 3 mg/100g

Brief details of Pakistan's import and export of grams are given below:

Imports (in thousand tons)

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

106

182

123

69

n/a

Exports (in thousand tons)

5

3

8

18

n/a

Reportedly Pakistan wanted to import 70,000 tons (which it might have imported) of black gram before the last month of Ramadan through private sector and 25,000 tons through TCP while 10,000 tons of gram already imported were available in the market. That was done to meet the higher demand of black gram during Ramadan. Production of gram in Pakistan does not meet the gap between demand and production. It is the highest consumed pulse crop of Indo-Pak Sub-continent. India is the largest chickpea producing country with a share of 64 percent in global production. Myanmar has emerged as an important chickpea producing country in recent years. Myanmar, after India, has become the fifth largest chickpea producing country. It is also an exporter of this commodity. Ninety percent of chickpeas are used in the countries where they are produced.

SUGGESTIONS TO BRING MORE AREA UNDER GRAM CULTIVATION AND INCREASE PRODUCTION:

In order to patronize resource-less farmers and increase production of grams, it would be a good-will gesture if the government, besides providing the know-how and extension service, should also supply them quality seed of the commodity, Qarz-e-Hasna (credit free from interest) and other facilities like residential abodes, drinking water etc. so that they may be able to work whole-heartedly. The Government must also provide technical and financial assistance to farmers for chickpea cultivation by mainly adopting sprinkler and drip irrigation so that farmers may not depend upon rainfalls only, for want of which the crop suffers badly and farmers have to bear insurmountable loss of their investment on inputs including seed, land improvement and labour services. . It may be relevant to point out that in sandy areas and deserts flood irrigation is not feasible - rather sprinkler and drip irrigation would be most suitable.