SOME major oilseed crops grown in Pakistan include cottonseed, rapeseed, mustard, canola, sunflower, safflower, groundnut and sesame. A significant amount of edible oil is extracted from cottonseed that is a fabric crop but not an oilseed. Edible crops like rapeseed, mustard and groundnut are indigenous and have been cultivated for centuries.
Per acre yield of traditional crops is significantly lower due to poor seed quality, inappropriate cultivation techniques and reduced potential yield of cultivars. On the other hand, sunflower, soybean and sesame are non-traditional crops and crop cultivars have higher potential yield.
Cultivation of oilseed crops is essential for steady supply of edible oil and to reduce imports. Edible oil is the fifth largest import item and its share in total imports is 3.6 per cent, which was 5.3 per cent a decade back. As a whole, Pakistan spends around Rs50 billion per annum on export of edible oil. The country imports palm oil from Malaysia, Norway, Singapore and South Korea and soybean oil from Malaysia, Argentina, Singapore and Switzerland.
In 2004-05, Pakistan imported palm oil worth $477.7 million against $464 million the previous year. Similarly, $49 million were incurred on the import of soybean oil in the same period. The demand for edible oil is increasing.
The total availability of edible oil in 2003-04 was 2.437 million tons with the share of local production at around 0.740 million tons which was 30.4 per cent of the total national requirements and 1.693 million tons was imported that constituted 69.6 per cent share. Edible oil is either imported or extracted from the imported seed. About 1.333 million tons of edible oil was imported in kind in 2003-04 while 0.114 million ton was extracted from the imported seeds.
Cultivation of edible oil is not popular among the farming community due to a number of reasons. Reported area under sunflower, rapeseed and mustard, sesame, cottonseed and canola in 2004-05 was 7,70,000 acres, 6,12,000 acres, 66,000 acres, 79,79,000 acres and 288,000 acres, respectively.
Production of oilseed of sunflower, rapeseed and mustard, cottonseed and canola was 5, 07,000 tons, 2,15,000 tons, 4,470,000 tons and 1, 73,000 tons, respectively during the same year.
Oil extraction from oilseeds produced during 2004-05 was 17,700 tons, 68,000 tons, 5, 36,000 tons and 6, 1000 tons of sunflower, rapeseed and mustard, cottonseed and canola, respectively. Total oil production was 8, 42,000 tons during 2004-05. To increase the area under oilseeds are difficult because of the ever-increasing demand of cereal grains for human. Small farmers prefer to grow cash crops instead of oilseeds.
The situation calls for exploration of other means to increase the acreage of oilseed crops without sacrificing the area under cash and grain crops. Cultivation of non-traditional crops like sunflower, canola and soybean is imperative to enhance production of oilseed in order to deal with the situation effectively.
The farmers are reluctant to grow oilseed crops because of the non-existent of definite procurement system for oilseeds. While an efficient system of procurement promotes production and efficient production attract buyers.
Another reason to be cited here is poor cultivation techniques. Normally, oilseed crops are cultivated in areas where it is not feasible to grow cash or grain crops due to deficiency of inputs such as irrigation water. Oilseed don’t require high amount of inputs. Little dose of fertilizers, minimum tillage, a few irrigations, and less plant protection measures are inputs required for successful cultivation of oil seeds due to which cost of production of these crops is much lower compared to grain or cash crops. Nevertheless, to get higher per acre yield, appropriate cultivation techniques are required.
It is possible to increase area of cultivation under oilseed crops in different agro-ecological regions where there is shortage of water.
Similarly, another option available is cultivation of oilseed crops on marginal lands, inter-cropping and replacement of some traditional crops like rapeseed and mustard. About 6.17 million hectares are salt affected soils, which comprises of 60 per cent of cultivable canal command area.
It can be managed through incorporation of gypsum and sulphuric or nitric acids in proper amounts and application of proper amount of fertilizers, inclusion of green manure crops in a suitable cropping pattern and deep ploughing with chisel plough to reduce the severity of salinity/sodicity. Similarly, water-logged and eroded soils can be managed through management practices and these soils can be made productive for sunflower crop.
Another way to increase cultivation of oil seed crops is to attract small farmers with 5 to 12.5 acres of land holding toward cultivation of oilseeds through provision of inputs like seed, fertilizers, irrigation and credit because these farmers have low financial capacity.
It is worth mentioning that cultivation of sunflower has the potential to reduce the import of edible oil by 30 per cent along with canola within five years provided there is focus on increasing area and production under these two important non-traditional crops.
Inter-cropping of selected oilseed crops in wheat, sugarcane and potato can also help to increase area as well as cropping intensity. Different governments have tried their best to increase edible oil production in the country. Pakistan Oilseed Development Board was set up to execute oilseed productivity programme in 1996-97. Its focus was on area expansion and production increase of non-traditional oilseed crops. However, results are not worth mentioning.
Improved management practices are needed to raise production. Per acre yield can be increased by introducing higher yielding hybrids, early maturing hybrids, hybrids resistant to insects, pests and diseases, availability of other inputs such as fertilizers, irrigation etc. and adoption of modern technology.
Quality seed is essential to get higher yield of oilseed crops. Quality seed makes it possible to enhance production by 10-20 per cent. Planting techniques play important role in enhancing crop yield significantly. For instance, bed plantation of sunflower gives 15 per cent higher yield than the traditional method of sowing like broadcasting. This sowing method also conserves about 45 per cent water.