PAKISTAN was self-reliant in edible oils from 1947 to 1960. The import of edible oils started in 1960. By 2011-12, the share of major local oilseeds in total domestic edible oil consumption dropped to around 30 per cent.

In the total consumption, the contribution of cottonseed is around 60 per cent, sunflower 28 per cent, rapeseed/mustard 10 per cent and canola two per cent. The import of edible oil is a heavy drain on foreign exchange reserves. Increasing oilseeds production is, therefore, of vital importance.

Vegetable ghee manufacturers import in bulk refined, bleached and deodorised palm oil, a hard oil, which constitutes more than 90 per cent of oil imports, besides small quantities of soft oils, mainly soybean oil. They also procure local soft oils.

The price of the locally produced oil is set by the cost of the imported hard and soft oils. In the event of depressed international prices, the ultimate sufferer is the farmer. He is at the mercy of industry and the middleman because his produce is procured on the basis of price of imported oil. As a result, growers prefer other crops.

Consequently, overall production of oilseeds has been hit by inept official policies and a vested interest that does not want the country to achieve autarky in edible oil. The government must develop a realistic programme on war footing to make the country self- sufficient in edible oil production. To achieve self-sufficiency, following actions are proposed.

• Increasing production of traditional and non-traditional oilseeds should be accorded top priority.

• Sources of oilseeds, (particularly sunflower, canola, oil palm and olive), and expansion of cultivable area (particularly through intercropping and exploiting new areas) can help raise output.

• Inter-cropping of both rape and mustard should be done on 10- 12 feet apart rows or ridges in wheat and berseem. It will neither require additional water nor affect the yield of major crops. Similarly, soyabean can be inter-cropped in cotton, sugarcane and maize. Various oilseeds can also be inter- cropped in orchards.

•  Cultivation of oil orchards on culturable wastelands and grafting/budding on existing wild trees in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Potohar and Balochistan.

• Popularising oil palm in coastal areas of Sindh and Balochistan.

• Assuring timely availability of sufficient quantity and quality seeds of latest varieties/hybrids by strengthening seed chain and at economical prices to growers and disposal of their produce at reasonable prices.

• Continual research and development efforts with focus on high yielding, disease and pest resistant indigenous seed production at lower costs to ensure better returns to oilseed growers.

• Transfer of improved technologies from the research institutes to the farmers through the extension departments to bridge the huge yield gap.

• Provide incentive for oilseeds. Import duty on soyabean and palm oil should be increased to encourage local production.

• Modernisation of oil milling sector in production catchment for high oil recovery by improving extraction capabilities, especially in cottonseed oil where nearly 200,000 tonnes is wasted in seed cake due to inefficient extraction through expellers.

• Oil can also be extracted from rice bran which contains 15 per cent oil by using the Korean bran stabiliser technology. More than 200,000 tonnes of rice bran is locally available, which if utilised for oil extraction, can contribute about 30,000 tonnes of oil annually.

• Mechanisation of oilseeds farming should be encouraged by providing subsidy to farmers for buying planters, threshers, diggers, driers, etc.

• Action should be taken to check smuggling of edible oil and the Pakistan Oilseed Development Board (PODB) should be empowered for dealing with all aspects of oilseed production to make the country self-sufficient.

A research project for enhancing nutrient use efficiency and productivity of oilseed crops funding by Higher Education Commission is underway at the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad.

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