New Ideas for Potwar Agriculture
Shahzada Sohail Ijaz
and Shahbaz Ahmad
PhD Scholar at University of Arid Agriculture Rawalpindi
Prof. and Dean Faculty of Food and Crop Sciences, University
of Arid Agriculture Rawalpindi
Agriculture in Potwar area of Pakistan is totally dependent
upon rainwater. The insufficient amount combined with uneven
distribution of rainfall increases the risk involved in crop
production. That is why farmers usually prefer only one crop
in the whole year. Water scarcity coupled with land
fragmentation has lowered the income of the farmers to such
an extent that the farmers of the area consider it a part
time business only. Keeping in view the scenario it is
highly desirable to look at the Potwar agriculture from
entirely a new point of view.
Pakistan has to meet 70 percent of its ever-increasing
edible oil demand by spending billions of rupees on its
import. A huge amount in foreign exchange is spent every
year for the import of edible oil. It was Rs 0.135 billion
in 1970-71, which reached Rs 40.53 billion in 1998-99.
During 1999-00 the import bill decreased to Rs 21.40 billion
and in 2000-01 to Rs 19.04 billion but again rose to Rs
39.28 billion in 2002-03. This indicates that during last
eleven years bill increased due to increased per capita
consumption, increase in prices of edible oil, higher
inflation rate and increase in population.
The Potwar area has great potential to lower down this
import load of the country. Just like rice and cotton zones
the Potwar area can be dealt as edible oil zone. There is a
big contingent of oil seed crops that have proved to be
promising in Potwar area including rapeseed and mustard,
groundnut, sunflower, sesame and olive.
Rapeseed and mustard have been grown for oil production for
years, however their oil was not fit for human consumption
because of its pungent smell and bitter taste due to
presence of toxic compound called erucic acid. Recently,
cultivars named canola have been evolved whose oil is fit
for cooking and human consumption. Rapeseed-mustard are
unfortunate in the sense that these have direct competition
with wheat, as both are grown in same season. Farmers prefer
to grow wheat, as it is a staple food and subsistence crop.
Rapeseed monoculture on large blocks of 5 to 10 acres is
rare. It is now diverging mostly into intercrop with winter
fodders and wheat and catch crop in “Zaid Kharif” season.
Assuming no change in production incentives, it is logical
to expect a further decrease in area even years to come.
Groundnut or peanut is an important oilseed crop of the dry
farming system. Groundnut oil is edible and serves as
excellent cooking oil. The nuts (un-shelled) have 33% oil.
It is free of toxic compounds and contains no linolenic acid
which causes oxidative rancidity (off- flavor) in other
vegetable oils. Groundnut requires light soils, which is
necessary for the penetration of the flower pegs into the
soil for pod formation. Light soils also offer easy digging
and minimum harvest losses. Due to this specific
requirement, its cultivation remained confined to sandy and
light soils, which are abundant in Rawalpindi division.
Sunflower seed contains 25-32% oil. It was introduced in
Pakistan during the early sixties as an oil crop. Its
expansion remained restricted due to the absence of
systematic follow up and adequate market mechanism. The
sunflower was grown on maximum area of 144,190 hectares,
during 1998-99, with 194,540 tons production. During
2002-03, it was grown on an area of 107,720 hectares
producing 128,530 tons seed. Sunflower oil is comparable to
olive oil. It is rich in linoleic acid, the essential fatty
acid. Hence it is valuable cooking oil. It can be
successfully grown in summer –fallow lands.
Safflower is a low moisture-loving crop and therefore, can
do better in rainfed areas and on residual moisture. It has
deep roots and can meet its water requirements from zones as
deep as 2 to 3 meters. Because of the same reason, it can
help reclaim soils with high water table. However, the spiny
nature and long maturing period of the crop, subdue its
promotion and acceptance even in the presence of such strong
advantages. Mechanization in the harvest or production of
new spineless varieties can help to overcome this
Sesame is one of the most ancient oilseed crop grown in the
Indo-Pak sub-continent. It requires more heat and light but
is sensitive to low temperature. Its seed contain 45 to 55 %
oil. The oil is of good quality, odourless and not liable to
become rancid due to the presence of sesamolin in the oil,
which on hydrolysis yields a powerful antioxidant sesamol.
The most attractive trait in sesame is its very short
duration, besides its tolerance to marginal lands.
Therefore, it has large scope for expansion in rainfed
Olive is a popular oil crop of the world. The tree bears
fruits, which contain edible oil. It is well known cooking
oil. The domesticated varieties of olive can be planted
successfully in the Potwar area.
Although some of the oilseed crops are already grown in the
area but most of them have failed to compete with the common
cereal and cash crops for lack of market. Farmer is wise
enough to choose the crop, which fetches him more income.
All efforts to proliferate oilseed crops will go in vain
until farmers find excellent market of their produce. The
best market opportunities in this regard can be provided by
installation of oil expeller in the area. The success
stories can be seen in case of sugar mills. Where there is a
sugar mill, farmers prefer to grow sugarcane. The same has
been observed in the areas where corn-processing unit has
been established; the farmers have started growing more and
more corn. Moreover factories themselves ensure the
production of the desired crop by providing incentives to
the growers so that they do not fall short of raw material.
Thus the need of the hour is to install oil expellers and
processing units for brassica, groundnut, sesame, sunflower,
and olive in the Potwar area. The ease in market will play a
key role in dramatic boost up of the oilseed production in
the area. The farmers will prefer to grow oilseed crops.
This will help the farmers to make more money out of their
lands, and the country will be able to save a huge amount of
foreign exchange by lowering down the edible oil import
bill. So just like rice and cotton zones Potwar area needs
to be dealt as an edible oil zone.
Shahzada Sohail Ijaz is a permanent contributor to