ISLAMABAD - The government is in process of negotiations with Federal Land Development Authority of Malaysia to initiate large scale oilpalm plantation in coastal areas of Sindh and Balochistan.

Malaysia is the main exporter of palm oil in the world and its Authority’s interest in large scale oilpalm plantation in Pakistan would definitely help save millions of Dollars spent on edible oil imports per annum. Sources at Ministry of National Food Security and Research while enumerating the measures being taken by government to decrease Pakistan’s dependence on imported oilpalm and wheat, on Sunday said there exist good prospects for its cultivation in coastal belt of Sindh and Balochistan where climatic conditions are favourable, though there is lack of water and extreme heat with monsoons least affecting the area.  The annual rainfall is as low as 25mm to 50mm as there are plans to provide incentives to people living along the coast from Karachi to Gawadar for oil palm cultivation.  The sources said cultivation of oilpalm in Pakistan would only beautify the coastal areas but also minimize environmental pollution. The 750km belt lies between 62 oF and 68 oF longitude and 24 oN and 26 oN latitude.

The sea breeze in summer moderates the temperatures near the coast. That is why these areas are considered suitable for cultivation of oilpalm.

The sources said more than 8,000 acres of land in Sindh and nearly the same size along the coastal areas of Balochistan would be brought under oil palm cultivation in near future and added that the country imports seedlings for which the Pakistan Oilseed Development Board (PODB) is actively working towards achieving the goal.  They said an Oilpalm Development Pilot Project was launched years back by Pakistan Oilseed Development Board (PODB) to promote oilpalm cultivation in coastal areas of Sindh and Balochistan. Another project titled Oilpalm Development Project was also launched at a total cost of Rs.113.08 million for oilpalm cultivation on 12,000 acres.

Moreover, the government of Balochistan launched a project on oilpalm cultivation at a total cost of Rs.326.371 million for a period of five years for oilpalm cultivation. They said oilpalm seedlings have been provided to growers at subsidized rates while Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL) had fixed a loan of Rs.5,000 per acre to growers having oilpalm plantation on their field.

The oilpalm project staff provided technical assistance to growers for land development, planting and maintenance of oilpalm plants. With regard to wheat, National Agriculture Research Council (NARC) and Provincial Research Institutes initiated a Wheat Productivity Enhancement Programme (WPEP) in collaboration with  the United States.

   The project aims to enhance and protect productivity of wheat in Pakistan by supporting research that leads to identification, adoption, and optimal agronomic management of new, high yielding, disease-resistant wheat varieties.     Furthermore, to achieve the targets, the research institutes are engaged in development and promotion of new high yielding wheat varieties while supply of farm inputs for wheat production is also being ensured. Wheat productivity enhancement competition among small to medium scale farmers at provincial level is also conducted.