Profitability of vegetable cultivation
By Dr Bashir Ahmad
and Khuda Baksh
Considerable diversification has occurred in the economy of
Pakistan. Industrial, transport and communication, and
energy sectors have expanded. Yet, agriculture remains the
largest by contributing 23.3 per cent to the GDP and
employing 42.1 per cent of total labour force. Textile,
sugar and many other industries depend on this sector either
directly or indirectly for raw materials.
Pakistan is endowed with diverse climates, fertile land, and
one of the best canal irrigation systems of the world. Large
varieties of crops are cultivated throughout the year,
including wheat, cotton, rice, and sugar cane which account
for 91 per cent of the value-added in major crops. Minor
crops including oil seed, pulses and vegetables account for
12.4 per cent of the value-added in overall agriculture.
The rising poverty, especially in rural areas poses serious
concerns for policy makers. Social scientists link spreading
poverty to the lack of employment opportunities and
malnutrition. Whatever little is earned, is spent on food
which is insufficient. Low intake of food nutrients affects
the labour productivity thus resulting in lower economic
Technological developments demands the need to help rural
poor who are either landless farmers or have little lands.
This is possible through a change from the existing
traditional system of cropping to a more innovative and
commercial farm business. One should begin with an
understanding of the resource base of these households. It
is perhaps time to bring about a major shift in our approach
towards farming business keeping in view the challenges and
prospects that will confront Pakistan in future.
Little research has been made pertaining to the input use,
seasonal pattern of production and other practices followed
by the farmers and nurserymen for the production of
vegetables. Little is known about the input use, cost of
production and profitability, and factors effecting its
cultivation. Therefore, research is needed to explore ways
and means to put this remunerative industry on scientific
lines and to ensure that it can bring prosperity to the
growers and the country.
A large variety of vegetables are cultivated in Pakistan.
More than 36 species are grown and consumed as winter and
summer vegetables. The most commonly grown include potato,
onion, tomato, chili, gourds, melons and many more. As far
as +AB0- +AAA- concentration of vegetables is concerned,
these are mainly cultivated in the vicinity of cities.
Bitter gourd is important from the economic and nutritional
Little research has been done on its production cost,
pattern of input use, farm management practices,
profitability and production and marketing constraints. It
is ignored for occupying small percentage of total cropped
area. The bitter taste indicates its medicinal properties.
It is germicidal and cures stomach disorders, rheumatism,
liver, spleen, and diabetes. The high nutritive value ranks
it first among the cucurbits in iron and vitamin C contents.
The seed yields clear brown oil which is edible, though not
Its cultivation can be carried out on all types of soils
except saline and waterlogged. Two crops of bitter gourd are
grown in the province of Punjab, one in January-March and
the other in June-July, mostly in Faisalabad, Rahim Yar
Khan, Toba Take Singh, Khanewal, and Sargodha.
The results of the study carried out in Rahim Yar Khan and
Faisalabad indicate that yield per acre is statistically
high in Rahim Yar Khan as compared to Faisalabad. This is
attributed to higher use of seed, farmyard manure, potash,
application of irrigation and plant protection measures and
labour for weeding/hoeing.
The use of good quality and recommended quantity of seed
plays a pivotal role in agricultural production. Same is the
case with bitter gourd cultivation. This is proved in the
study that those using recommended quantity of seed obtain
higher yield per acre. Fertilizer is the key input in
vegetable cultivation generally, and in bitter gourd
production particularly. The use of phosphorus is
significant in Faisalabad and Rahim Yar Khan, resulting in
The plant protection measures increase per acre yield by
protecting vegetable from the damage caused by disease and
pest attacks. The use of other inputs could not be realized
until proper plant protection measures are not carried out
which are in the range of 3-7 in number. However, better
plant protection is reported in Rahim Yar Khan. Weeds
deteriorate production in vegetable. This is a crucial farm
management practice requiring lot of labour.
The total cost per acre is estimated higher because of the
extensive use of inputs. However, cost per kg is much more
less as compared to Faisalabad. This is the result of higher
yield. Returns are also calculated for each district and
these are comparatively more for the respondents of Rahim
Yar Khan than those of Faisalabad.
On an average, about 219.49 labour hours are needed to
cultivate bitter gourd from one acre in Rahim Yar Khan and
196.91 labour hours in Faisalabad. High utilization of
labour is due to more number of harvesting, weeding,
pesticide treatment, and other input application. A
significant proportion of labour is +AB0- +AAA- allocated to
weeding and harvesting.
This shows that bitter gourd cultivation creates more
employment opportunities for unskilled rural labour force,
particularly women. Relative share of inputs in total
production cost is worked out, indicating that labour,
fertilizers, land rent, plant protection measures and
irrigation constitute major shares in total cost in each
district. However, higher shares of plant protection
measures and irrigation are estimated for the respondents of
Rahim Yar Khan.
Results of production function analysis depict that the
coefficients of fertilizer, labour used for weeding and
farmyard manure are positive and statistically significant
indicating that these factors are mainly increasing bitter
gourd yield. Disease and pest attacks are reported in both
districts. The dummy variable is included in the model.
Coefficient of this variable is negative as expected and is
highly significant showing that disease and pest attacks
badly affected yield per acre of bitter gourd. This result
demands for proper plant protection measure at the right
time. Constraints in bitter gourd cultivation are shortage
of water, inadequate funds, low price of the produce,
disease and pest attacks, and poor quality of underground
water in Faisalabad and Rahim Yar Khan.
Problem solving approach is also identified and it shows
that mostly farmers are discussing their difficulties with
input dealers, friends and relatives. There are few
vegetable growers who are consulting with extension field
As discussed earlier that the production shows that the
farmyard manure is important in increasing the yield. The
result suggests that farmers should apply appropriate
quantity of manure for maintaining soil fertility. Further,
the farmers could increase the yield per acre by applying
more and optimum quantity of nitrogen and phosphorus
nutrients. The number of irrigations is significant between
the districts Moreover,farmers use less number of
irrigations than the recommended ones.
Courtesy: The DAWN