Oil being an everyday commodity is being used both as edible and as non-edible purposes. Similarly, vegetable oil is utilized by food and chemical industries for the production of a number of goods. Moreover, oilseed crop is more environment-friendly because they act as phytoremediators, which help remove heavy metals like cadmium, lead, trichloroethylene (most common groundwater pollutant), carbon tetrachloride(suspected human carcinogens) from the soil. Their plantation in cultivated lands for one time in a year makes those lands free from heavy metals and become 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 a great landmark in coming decades. A country like Pakistan could greatly benefit from it because the country’s socio-economic development is deteriorating owing to the shortage of energy resources along with the fact that biofuel produced from oilseed crops causes less environmental pollution. Thus, less global warming than the fossil fuels. Hence, cultivation of oilseed crops can make Pakistan both Healthy and Wealthy.
Current scenario of oilseeds production in Pakistan is that around 591,500 hectares of the 80 million hectares area is under oilseed crops cultivation. The production caps at 646 thousand tonnes while the import is around 2322 thousand tonnes. This alarmingly big gap between local production and import in spite of the fact that Pakistan is an agrarian country and should be self-efficient in fulfilling its 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-mustard, groundnut, sesame and linseed has not been achieved yet due to their cultivation on marginal lands, use of low quality seeds, use of insufficient amount of fertilizers by small landholders, competition with other winter crops like lentil, chickpea, wheat and other forages, less Research and Development Projects for high yielding crops and improper marketing system. The major and chief reason behind the low production is that farmer prefers to grow staple crops because there exist no procurement system for oilseed crops. These problems also become a hurdle in the cultivation of non-traditional crops like jatropha, 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. There 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 the farmers from their livelihood as most of them rely on these crops. Less irrigated and less cultivated areas 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. The Olive plant can grow best in Balochistan and Northern areas. Barani areas have the potential to grow rapeseed-mustards, sunflower, safflower, groundnut and sesame. Safflower can successfully be grown in Dobari areas of Sindh and Balochistan. Barani areas are best for cultivation because water requirement can be fulfilled through monsoon rains. Sunflower which is emerging as a major crop because of its short period and successful growth and can be cultivated both in irrigated and barani areas. Jatropha, a major crop for biodiesel production can be grown easily in many areas of Sindh.
In summation, vast incentives should be given to make policies for initiating 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.