ISLAMABAD-Pakistan needs to focus on large-scale palm oil cultivation to reduce its dependence on edible oil imports and save a significant amount of foreign exchange.
Speaking to WealthPK, National Agricultural Research Center (NARC) Chief Scientist Nazakat Nawaz said, “Despite the ecological diversity, suitable climate and vast fertile lands, Pakistan is unfortunately among the world’s largest oil producing countries. edible oil the weakest. Only 30% of our national oil needs are met by local production, the remaining 70% coming from imports. The cost of importing edible oil into Pakistan has exceeded $4 billion a year to meet the pressing demand of its people.
“This gap between supply and demand shows Pakistan’s heavy reliance on imported oilseeds and refined palm oil. Although the government has launched projects to increase the production of oilseeds from rapeseed, sunflower and olive oil, the harvest cycle will take about the next seven years.
He added, “According to the preferential trade agreement, Pakistan buys 25% of its palm oil products from Malaysia and 75% of its palm oil products from Indonesia. Despite these agreements, Pakistan faces high export duties on crude palm oil and rising prices for refined palm oil. It is therefore essential that Pakistan turns to oil palm plantations and reduces its import bill. Pakistan must take advantage of its coastal areas where it can get maximum return,” he said.
“Some of our areas are best for oil palm plantations with suitable temperatures between 24 and 35 degrees Celsius. other crops like cotton and wheat,” Nazakat said.
The government of Sindh has launched a palm oil cultivation project as part of the Sindh Annual Development Plan 2021-2022. Sindh Forest Department has sold 1,000 acres of land to Sindh Coastal Development Authority (SCDA) for palm cultivation. A project to plant palm trees on 50 acres of land, of which 30 acres have already been cultivated, was launched by SCDA at a cost of Rs2 million.
In addition to the government’s decision to plant palm trees, it is essential to build additional solvent extraction facilities near the plantation. A single extraction unit, capable of covering up to 100 acres of land, has been installed so far.
The NARC official added, “According to Malaysian experts, Pakistan’s coastal belt is well suited for palm oil production. Although it requires large amounts of water, it is still 50% less than what banana trees need. For the current 35 acre planting, a total of 30mm is required each day (by flood irrigation). During the monsoon season, it becomes dependent on rain and irrigation is not needed for about three months.
Pakistan could experience severe food shortages and a sharp increase in the gap between its imports and exports if it fails to adapt to changing environmental conditions and develop modern farming methods. In the years to come, Pakistan’s agricultural productivity will ultimately determine the country’s GDP and trade prospects.