KARACHI - The growers have sought government help for increasing the output of export-oriented agriculture items to reduce the burgeoning food imports in the country. Sindh Abadgar Board, which represents the majority of growers of the province, in its budget proposals for FY2009-10, proposed number of steps to introduce new crops for reducing the food imports. So far, Pakistan had spent $3.419 billion (Rs267 billion) during ten months (July to April) of current FY2009-10. The annual food imports bill stood around $4 billion, which constitutes significant share in over all imports $35 billion of the country annually. According to Mahmood Nawaz Shah, General Secretary, Sindh Abadgar Board, the trade deficit was a major economic problem for Pakistan while the food import bill is also increasing every year. The Sunflower and palm oil have potential to reduce import bill of Rs80 billion as sunflower was already being produced and processed successfully which only requires additional incentives from government, he said and added the palm oil production tests have been very successful in Sindh and Balochistan. Quoting the study of growers organisation he said that at least 950 KM of the coastal belt was ideal for palm oil production as the bunches produced in this area were approximately 18 per tree per year which is even more than Malaysia, the parent country of palm oil from where Pakistan is importing bulk of its edible oil. Around 6 million acres of land can be brought under cultivation in the coastal area of both provinces, he added. In order to increase production of sunflower and palm oil, the Sindh Abadgar Board proposed for establishment of palm oil processing units in Thatta and Hub while through public-private partnership, government could invite expression of interest to attract private sector in this industry. The government should negotiate and give some fiscal benefits to expand this industry, he said and proposed that pre-sowing contracts should be done with the growers at certain lucrative terms and conditions for at least 5 years as palm tree takes three years for production before it matures. Furthermore, as part of the contract, fertilizer should be given at 25 percent subsidy to the growers while same facility must be extended to sunflower producers, he said adding that the growers should also be given advance loans on concessional terms and payable when their produce is bought by the processing industry. Shah advocated for increasing self-reliance in fuels and stressed to explore viability of making fuel from crops such as corn, rapeseed, molasses/sugarcane and jetropha. The jetropha was being successfully grown in Pakistan as it requires less water. According to Shah, the oil of jetropha after filtration can directly be used in diesel engines. To encourage jetropha plantation in Pakistan, free plants and loan on concessional terms should be given to farmers, he said and added that the development of jatropha will help to reduce Pakistans dependence on foreign crude oil. He estimated that at least 10 percent blending of jatropha in diesel is likely to reduce the import bill by $710 million. Biogas could be anther important source of energy as Pakistan is rich in livestock and Sindh alone has 32 million livestock. As pilot project Karachi should be focused, he concluded.