ISLAMABAD - Pakistan imports soya bean oil worth 456 million dollars. Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) has introduced new innovative technology for promotion of soya bean cultivation in the country. Farmers should use soybean seed of PARC-developed varieties for the enhancement of soybean crop.

This was stated by Dr Muhammad Azeem Khan, Director General of National Agricultural Research Centre (NARC), while talking to the media.

Soybean is one of the most valuable crops in the world not only as an oil seed crop and feed for livestock and aquaculture, but also as a good source of protein for the human diet and as a bio-fuel feedstock.

Rapid soybean demand increased in the last three decades due to rapidly growing poultry industry. Pakistan imports soy meal every year from India, North and South American countries to meet the requirements of poultry, livestock and aquaculture. Last year 650 tons of soy meal was imported; value of the meal was 364 million US dollars. In addition to soy meal, 50 million dollars are spent on import of soya oil. Requirements for the soy oil and meal are continuously increasing due to ever increasing population and meal requirements for the poultry industry that is growing.

In Pakistan soybean was introduced as an oil seed crop in 1960s and promoted in 1970s. Area under soybean cultivation increased with very slow pace with frequent variations 833 (1975-76) to 6613 ha in 1993-4. Currently area under soybean cultivation in Pakistan is negligible and therefore, no contribution in edible oil and soya meal production. However, under present scenario, rapid soybean expansion took place at global level due to by-product (soybean cake) after oil extraction, which is used as a high-protein animal feed in many countries. The same realization raised in Pakistan due to rapid growth in poultry sector at 10 percent growth rate annually. Soybean is a short duration (90-100 days) and profitable crop. It also improves soil fertility by adding nitrogen from the atmosphere.

This is a major benefit in different farming systems, where soils have become exhausted due to intensive cultivation to produce more food for increasing populations. It has been well studied that climatic conditions of Pakistan are suitable for soybean cultivation.

Keeping in view the importance of soybean crop and huge import bill of soya meal and oil, Oilseeds Research Program of PARC has planted seed multiplication blocks of soybean promising varieties on 270 acres at NARC farm area and also distributed seed to different clients. Objective of the activity was to revive and promote an important crop in the country and save foreign exchange on the import of soybean oil and meal.

Dr Azeem Khan, DG NARC said scientists are working to reduce the cost of production of soybean in the country, make the crop profitable for farmers and to compete the world. The efforts are being made to promote crop in irrigated areas to exploit the potential.

The trials will be conducted at different agricultural research institutes located in the country to test the adaptability of different varieties and select accordingly.

He said media should create awareness among the farming community about the benefits of this crop such as improving soil fertility and as an alternate crop in suitable cropping systems due to short maturity duration. He said PARC with the collaboration of different national partners is making efforts to promote the crop on commercial scale. During current kharif season 2014, PARC planted soybean on 270 acres for seed multiplication of improved varieties. Moreover seed for 100 acres was also provided to different govt departments and farmers. The seed produced will be used for distribution among farmers during next spring and kharif seasons plantation on 5000 acres. The crop will be promoted in northern Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with the collaboration of government and non-government organizations like NRSP and LokSanjh, poultry industry and progressive farmers. He said the soybean can also be used for by-products development (soya milk tofu and other food products).