OKARA: Potato growers highlighted at a seminar on Thursday challenges regarding potato cultivation, exports, usage of the laser technology, basic concepts of exporting the disease-free potatoes to Europe and the changing atmosphere of the food-related fields.

The seminar on ‘Potato challenges and prospects’ by Pakistan Horticulture Development and Export Company (PHDEC) with the Potato Growers Cooperative Society was attended by a large number of potato growers of Okara in a local hotel.

Speakers said Pakistan had not a single locally prepared potato seed variety and only imported seed varieties were being used. A potato crop is facing four or five diseases whereas 18 or 19 diseases are posing threats to the crop. Growers use less potassium andcalcium fertilizers which attracts various diseases.

Okara, Sahiwal, Kasur and Pakpattan are the leading districts in the potato produce. The Potato Research Institute (PRI) in Sahiwal claims the institute has prepared seven seeds.

Speakers said Pakistan should prepare climate change-related latest varieties. They stressed the need for irrigating the crop through drip irrigation instead of flood irrigation which reduces the 20 per cent of the produce. Egypt has emerged as a strong competitor to Pakistan in potato exports.

Pakistan’s potato export destinations are Afghanistan, Russia, the Middle East and Germany and it imports seeds from Germany and the Netherlands. Speakers said potato starch ingredient was getting preference as compared to maize starch. Also, Russia uses Pakistani potato in the preparation of Vodka.

Speakers said they needed consistency in the potato crop yields and quality export crops. They highlighted the importance of radiation technology to enhance disease-free potatoes and other fruits and vegetables. They said the world was manufacturing more than 200 potatoes’ value-added products while Pakistanis prepare up to seven products.

The seminar noted Pakistan had a big room for potato exports but the crop was taken for food security. Potato demand is increasing around the globe, so the government must pay attention to potato growing areas of the country.

The seminar demanded that the government establish a Potato Development Board like Pakistan Tobacco Board to resolve the potato related problems under one roof.

Those who spoke at the seminar included Usman Qureshi, chief executive of the PHDEC, Sarfraz Iqbal from Hazara Research Institute in Abbottabad, PRI’s Dr Ijaz, Dr Khalid Zafar from the Department of Plant Protection, Ghazanfer Malik, Syed Iftikhar Hussain, Mian Muhammad Siddique and Chaudhry Maqsood Ahmad.

Mr Qureshi said the government was increasing the wheat support price keeping in view the current market price.

BURIED ALIVE: A minor boy was buried alive while another was injured when sand fell on them in village Ghulam ka.

Zahid and Ashfaq were playing in the village fields when the mound of sand fell on them. The villagers retrieved them but Zahid had dead by that time.

Ashfaq was referred to the DHQ city hospital from the Gogera rural health centre.

Published in Dawn, October 16th, 2020

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