Pause in oil palm plantation
Ghulam Nabi Mughal
July 18, 2011: THE fate of oil palm plantation project in
the coastal areas of Sindh has become uncertain in the
backdrop of conflicting views of the provincial government
officials over the status of Pakistan Oilseed Development
Board after its devolution.
According to a source in the provincial government, more
than once in the past, the project failed to take off in the
absence of oil palm extraction plant in the province. But,
with the palm planting project, work on the setting up of
oil extraction plant was in progress in Thatta district.
To facilitate the project several federal government bodies
, including the Pakistan Oilseed Development Board (POSDB),
had to be devolved to the provinces.
A source attached to the Sindh Coastal Development Authority
(SCDA), talking to this scribe, regretted that the centre
wanted to handover the POSDB to the province, but the Sindh
Agriculture Department, due to some reasons, did not agree
to take over its charge.
Consequently, he said, it was feared that work on oil
extraction plant being financed by the POSDB would be
stopped; that would damage the project located on 500 acres
in the coastal belt of Thatta district which includes
maintenance and rehabilitation of plantation over an area of
200 acres and setting up of nursery for 400 seedlings.
The plantation of palm on an area of 100 acres at another
site launched by the Sindh Government will also be affected.
It is feared that with the Sindh government’s refusal to
take over the charge of the board, work on setting up of oil
extraction plant might be stopped.
However, when contacted, Sindh Agriculture Secretary Agha
Ahad Jan denied reports that the provincial government was
reluctant to take over the POSDB. He said it was ready to
take over a part of the said board.
However, he expressed reservations over the viability of an
oil extraction plant in Thatta.
He said the project was not planned on sound lines and
complained that it was in the hands of inexperienced people.
After organising the board in the province, efforts would be
made to set up a viable oil extraction plant.
Giving details about plantation scheme on 500 acres in the
coastal zone of Thatta district, officials said the project
launched in 2007-08 was to be completed by 2012-13 at an
estimated cost of over Rs46.4 million.
Around Rs21 million had been spent till June 2010.Till now,
palm has been planted over 120 acres in Kathore (riverine
forest), 120 acres in Maliriri forest (inland irrigated
forest) and over 60 acres in Munarki (riverine forest).
The plantation reports are excellent with 95 per cent
survival. According to these sources, reports about
plantation at two other sites are also encouraging.
Recently a team of Malaysian experts visited the plantation
sites and in their report they described the results as
excellent. Moreover, they said the quality of fruits were
better than those planted in Malaysia.
The CDA sources admitted that due to last year’s floods
fruits of the size of about 1-1.5 feet were damaged but
those more than two feet survived.
Pakistan spends about Rs90 billion on the import of about
1.7 million tons of palm oil each year.
In case, adequate palm is planted in the country, it can
save enormous foreign exchange each year.
Experts believe that all necessary ingredients for massive
palm plantation are available in the country but what is
needed is to get out of the trap of edible oil import lobby.
These experts say the country is yet to take advantage of
its 550 km coastline of Balochistan and 330 km shoreline in
southern Sindh best suited for oil palm plantation.
In case of less rainfall, humidity and availability of canal
water can serve as substitute.
Courtesy: The DAWN