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KARACHI: Vice-President of Pakistan Businesses Forum (PBF) Ahmad Jawad has said that in order to control cooking oil prices, Pakistan should convert this crisis into an opportunity by incentivising cultivation of edible oil. India is following the same and has succeeded in increasing domestic production.

He said edible oil seeds in Pakistan characterises a policy failure because the production of oil seeds as edible oil has been on the decline despite numerous initiatives. The country has been augmenting growing demand-supply gap through imports since early 1970. The domestic production contributes only 13 to 15 percent of the whole consumption whereas 85 to 87 percent is met through imports.

Jawad said our per capita consumption of edible oil has risen from 5.31 kg in 1973-74 to 20 kg in 2018 and is probably going to maneuver to 22 kg by 2028 projecting total consumption to 6.5 million tons by 2028 against current local production of less than 0.5 million tons, widening the demand-supply gap more.

The import bill for these products has reached over US 4 billion dollars in FY 2021 which is straining the balance of trade and the balance of payment. With global uncertainties and challenges facing the oilseeds sector including the sharp price fluctuations and market instability and favorable tariffs for imports, the import bill is likely to move upward underscoring the need for well thought out policy and planning.

Similarly ban imposed by Indonesia on oil and alternative products’ export, Ukraine-Russia war, and prolonged heat wave can also negatively contribute to the price of edible oil.

No department exists within the public sector at federal and provincial levels for the systematic promotion of seed crops within the country.

With Pakistan Oilseed Development Board’s (PODB) scope remaining drastically limited at national level and non-establishment of comparable establishments at provincial levels following passage of 18th Amendment, all development work on edible oil sector came to a standstill.

Other than PODB’s so-called “achievement” of increasing acreage of sunflowers, no other initiative has been introduced for this food sector so far. Consequently, no one took the responsibility of coordination and policy formulation for oilseed development and with virtually no result-oriented research on oil seed crops, farmers found no charm in planting these crops.

He further suggested, oil seed crops needs to be promoted and base price may be set by the government to support massive cultivation in the country and accordingly oil mills in the country used that crop for making cooking oil and ghee.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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