Plan to boost oilseed crops in Pakistan

Despite being an agriculture-based economy, Pakistan is heavily reliant on the import of edible oil and oilseed to meet the annual requirements of oils and fats. The total consumption of oils and fats in Pakistan has exceeded 4.5 million MT out of which the share of indigenous oilseed crops is approximately 10%. In 2018-19, government of Pakistan spent approximately USD 4 billion on the import of edible oil and oilseeds in Pakistan which is a major burden on the overall economy of Pakistan.

In July 2019, government of Pakistan launched Agriculture Emergency Programme with an allocation of PKR 309 billion (USD 1.95 billion) to uplift the agriculture and livestock sector and increase productivity of small farmers. This programme also aims to reduce dependence on imports of major commodities and eventually increase the incomes of a large part of the population whose livelihoods depend on agriculture. Small farmers from major districts of Punjab have been asked to become part of the programme by setting up demonstration plots with the financial support of the government. Government is offering PKR 11,000 per acre (USD 70) to farmers for demonstrating best agriculture practices. 

Under this Agriculture Emergency Programme, Punjab Agriculture Department has recently launched a 5-year oilseed enhancement programme with a budget allocation of PKR 5.1 billion (USD 31.8 million) for the enhancement of sunflower, sesame, and canola crops in 15 major districts of Punjab. The agriculture department aims to increase the area under cultivation of these crops from 45,000 acres to 100,000 acres. 

Local Oilseed Performance

Commodities20152016201720182019
Rapeseed67,00065,00061,00066,000102,000
Sunflower69,00035,00041,00040,00054,000
Canola6,0006,0006,00011,00014,000
Total (MT)142,000106,000108,000117,000170,000

Source: Economic survey of Pakistan 

Over the last 5 years, the production of the oilseeds in Pakistan has increased from 142,000 MT in 2015 to 170,000 MT in 2019. The oil content from these crops is merely 65,000 – 70,000 MT which is less than 2% of our total consumption of oils and fats. Major component of local edible oil comes from cottonseed oil which is a biproduct of textile industry. In 2019, the total production of cottonseed in Pakistan was 330,000 MT which was 21% lower than its volume in 2015.

Conclusion 

It is encouraging to see that the Punjab Agriculture Department is embarking on an aggressive plan to double the area under cultivation of these soft oils. However, for this plan to succeed, a concerted effort would be required at the level of provincial and federal governments. Farmers will have to be educated on the benefits of switching from conventional crops like wheat, sugarcane and rice to high value and high yield crops. Government will also have to develop infrastructure for lifting the oilseed crops at a guaranteed support price from the farmers, so they are not left on the mercy of solvent extractors who are also the largest importers of oilseeds in Pakistan. 

Prepared by :  Faisal Iqbal

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