LAHORE: Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry’s (FPCCI) Standing Committee on Agriculture Produce Chairman , Ahmad Jawad said on Sunday that government must fix the price of sunflower and other oilseed crops for at least three years at the optimum level to discourage the import bill of edible oil.
Addressing a meeting on Monday, he said despite the significance of oilseed crops in reducing the country’s dependence on imported edible oil, neither the government nor the agriculture based associations are moved to step up production of the crops.
Farmers generally prefer sugarcane and rice because of the better returns on their investment. Growers feel discouraged by the market price the oilseeds fetch and are also handicapped by the absence of an enabling environment. The farmers, who go for cultivating sunflower, often feel disgusted because they are left at the mercy of the market.
Jawad said the Pakistan Oilseed Development Board (PODB) disbanded in 2012 following the 18th Amendment, has been revived, but its restricted mandate is to look after only the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the federal capital. Oilseed crops like mustard, sunflower, rapeseed and canola lack the congenial investment climate in provinces where they are grown.
However, Sindh heavily contributes to the production of sunflower and other oilseed crops. Yet, the sources in the provincial agriculture department do not view the situation as encouraging. They don’t focus on crops that are of short duration in the rabi season.
The growers do not get adequate price for sunflower and mustard crops, which vary between around Rs1,400-1,500 per 40kg. Only last year did the average price of the two crops, which went up to Rs 2200-2300. And seeds with lower yields are a major problem for cultivators.
Though the support price for wheat is largely secured with the government’s procurement policy. For oilseed crops, there is no such cover and their output has declined which is unfortunate; he remarked.
According to the official figures, sunflower acreage dropped to 383,000 acres in 2013-14 from 1.1m acres in 2010-11. Sindh cultivated the crop on 308,000 acres and harvested 137,602 metric tonnes.
Jawad urged the government may adopt some line of action in this regard, particularly to cut the import bill of edible oil which stood at $2.5bn in 2013-14, he said.
It may also be recalled here the international market is also not encouraging growers. Recent reports indicate that canola’s per tonne cost is around Rs 42,667 and sunflower’s Rs 44,907.
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