By Bisma Baig
Oil being an everyday commodity is being used both as edibles and as non-edibles. In a similar vein, vegetable oil is utilized by food and chemical industries for the production of a number of goods. In addition, oilseed crop are more environment friendly because they act as phytoremediants, remove heavy metals like cadmium, lead, trichloroethylene (most common groundwater pollutant), carbontetrachloride(suspected human carcinogens) from soil. Their plantation in cultivated lands for once in a year makes those lands free from heavy metals and becomes a source of healthy and heavy metals free food.
However, as developed countries are moving from non-renewable to renewable energy resources, the usage of oilseed crops in biofuel manufacturing could prove itself a great landmark in coming decades because especially for a country like Pakistan whose socio-economic development is deteriorating owing to the shortage of energy resources along with the fact that biofuel produced from oilseeed crops causes less envirnomental pollution and thus less global warming than the fossil fuels. So, cultivation of oilseed crops can make Pakistan both Healthy and Wealthy.
Current scenario of oilseeds production in Pakistan is that 591,500 hectares of 80 million hectares area is under oilseed crops cultivation, the production being 646 thousand tonnes and the import being 2322 thosand tonnes. The alarming situation is that their exists a big gap between local production and import inspite of the fact that Pakistan being an agrarian country can be self-efficient in fulfilling local needs. The gap exists due to certain reasons.
A big reason for low local production is that the real yield potential of traditional crops like sunflower, rapeseed-mutard, groundnut, sesame and linseed has not been achieved yet due to their cultivation on marginal lands, use of low quality seeds and use of insufficient amount of fertilizers by small landholders, competition with other winter crops like lentil, chickpae, wheat and other forages, less Research and Development Projects for high yeilding crops and improper marketing system.The major and chief reason behind low production is that farmer prefers to grow staple crops because their exist no procurement system for oilseed crops. These problems also become a hurdle in cultivation of non-traditional crops like jatroph, castor, coconut, olive and oil palm. However, solutions do exist also.
Solution to the problem of less area for cultivation can be achieved easily because their cultivation requires less water, so can be cultivated in less irrigated areas. Their is no need to cultivate them on those areas on which cereal crops and other major crops are grown because cultivation of oilseed crops on these lands may cause food insecurity and deprive farmers from their livlihood as most of them rely on these crops. Less irrigated and less cultiva ted aeeas giving their potential yield are Coastal areas, Barani areas, Rod-kohi areas and dobari areas of Punjab and Sindh.
Coastal areas have a great potential to grow Oil Palm and Coconuts. Olive plant can grow best in Balochistan and Northern areas. Barani areas have the potential to grow rapeseed-mustards, sunflower, safflower, groundnut and sesame. Saffllower can successfully be grown in Dobari areas of Sindh and Balochistan. Barani areas are the best for cultivation because water requirement can be fulfilled through monsoon rains. Sunflower which is emerging as major crop because of its short period and successful growth in can be cultivated both in irrigated and barani areas. Jatropha, a major crop for bio-diesel production can be grown easily in many areas of Sindh.
In addition, Incentives to make policies for intiating R&D projects to develop more oil producing and water-efficient varieties, establishing procurement mechanisms and rationalizing import of oils for encouraging farmers for increased cultivation of oilseed crops should be made.