LAHORE - The Federal government has fixed minimum purchase price for the sunflower crop for 2009-10 at Rs 1600 per 40-kg in order to encourage the farmers to grow sunflower on maximum area and ensure due return of their produce. However, farmers organisations including Pakistan Muttahida Kisan Mahaz (PMKM) have rejected the price, demanding the government to fix Rs 2000 per 40-kg as the minimum purchase price of sunflower. Addressing a press conference here at the Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (Passco) headquarters on Monday, Federal Minister for Agriculture Nazar Muhammad Gondal said that this year, the government fixed target of sowing of sunflower on 1.1 million acres of land throughout the country. Farmers can get 800,000 tons of sunflower crop, if the sowing target is achieved that can help produce around 2,86,000 tons of oil. Price of this oil has been calculated at Rs 25b in the international market, the Minister said. He further said that oil produced out of crop sown on this targeted area would save $360m to the government reducing the dependence on import. He said the Pakistan Oilseed Development Board (PODB) and the MINFA in consultation with the Pakistan Vanaspati Manufacturers Association (PVMA), Solvent Extractors Association, Seed Companies and farmers have decided the new minimum purchase price for the coming sunflower crop. He said that the industry circles also promised to buy the crop and ensuring payment of the crop according to the minimum purchase price announced by the govt. The minimum-purchasing price last year was Rs 1300/maund, he claimed. 'While the seed companies have promised to provide quality 2200 tons of sunflower seed to the farmers needed for sowing on 1.1m acres of land, he added. He advised the growers to sow sunflower on maximum area and the govt would ensure the price. He said that the Passco would facilitate the buyers and the govt would facilitate the growers. On this occasion, representatives of the industry claimed that increase in minimum purchase price would not affect the prevailing ghee and oil prices, as the new minimum purchase price was being announced in line with the prevailing international oil prices. Replying to various queries, the Minister said that the PODB was constituted in 1995 by late Benazir Bhutto to increase production of oilseeds in Pakistan and reduce dependence on import of edible oil. At present import bill of edible oil was around $2b. He regretted that no government paid attention towards this Board after PPP government. He said that now present government had reconstituted its board with representatives from Ministry of Agriculture, Solvent Extractor Association, Pakistan Vanaspati Manufacturers Association, Seed Cos and farmers. At present, he said the Board was working on increasing olive, canola, palm oil and other oilseeds. He said that the government had recently started working on a palm oil extracting machine in Thatha area while an extracting machine for olive oil had already been installed. He said that all these crops would support the government efforts to reduce dependence on edible oil import. Meanwhile, farmers organisations including Pakistan Muttahida Kisan Mahaz, Agri Forum Pakistan and others have rejected the support price announced by the government and demanded to fix it at Rs 2000 per 40-kg. Pakistan Muttahida Kisan Mahaz (PMKM) Chief M Ayub Mayo rejected the support price announced by the government and said his organisation had announced in a farmers moot held recently which demanded that price of sunflower should be fixed at Rs 2000 per maund. He also said that due to this same reason area under sowing for sunflower had reduced in 2008-09. Ayub Khan Mayo also said that this year the country had to import palm oil worth over Rs one billion from Malaysia and Indonesia to meet the local demand. He said that the government should encourage the local growers to reduce import bill by protecting the rights of the growers rather than exploiting the situation. Chief of Agri-Forum Pakistan Muhammad Ibrahim Mughal said that sunflower crop was sold at Rs 1800 per maund some three years back. He said during these three years prices of diesel, fertilizers, seeds and other inputs had increased by 20-25pc. The per-40 kilogram cost of production is Rs 1850 per maund, then how the farmers would bear the loss. He claimed that there would be negligible sowing of sunflower in Punjab if this price is not revised immediately and fixed at Rs 2000 per maund.