China helping Pakistan cut oilseed imports

China helping Pakistan cut oilseed imports

BEIJING, Jan. 17 (APP): As Pakistan has been confronted with economic challenges especially after the massive countryside floods, with the shrinking foreign exchange reserves, the country’s various imports are putting additional financial strain.

Statistics from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) show that in FY2021, Pakistan’s imports of soya beans, whether or not broken, reached about $1.145 billion, strong growth of about 50% year-on-year, exhibiting the country’s urgent demand for soybeans. However, in the first quarter of FY2023, Pakistan’s soybean imports were $269 million, down about 18% year-on-year, which may have been affected by the decline of its foreign exchange reserves.

Soybean production should be adequately considered by Pakistan because of its over dependence on imports of soybeans, China Economic Net (CEN) reported.

“We are dependent on imports. It is very expensive which causes increase in the price of feed, oil etc. day by day. It is our need to plant it in our country,” Hafiz Saad Bin Mustafa, Oilseed Scientist at the Ayub Agricultural Research Institute, said.

According to him, all crops in Pakistan were non-GMO except cotton. “Most foreign varieties that we import are of mild areas and GMO. They can neither be planted here nor can they survive here. So seeds of local varieties should be multiplied and should be promoted in the potential areas that we have identified by our trials and adaptability studies,” Hafiz said.

He said since soybean was mostly cultivated in such countries as America, Brazil and Argentina where there was mild climate, Pakistan needed to develop its own non-GMO soybean verities that could perform well in high temperatures.

“We do not produce good quality seeds, and the total seed production is twenty percent in different crops. There is a huge gap. At present we are dependent on imported seeds for different crops even for wheat, rice, cotton, and vegetables, and the same is with soybeans. We should produce it locally,” Dr. Zahir Ahmad, In-charge Soybean Breading Lab, University of Agriculture Faisalabad (UAF), said.

He said the farmer needed specific planters, harvesters, and threshers. “Mechanization is one of the best approaches by which we can increase soybean production. In this way, we need less labour, less time, and less storage time.”

Talking about the latest progress of soybean production in Pakistan, Dr Zahir Ahmad emphasized that now their focus was intercropping-specific soybean promotion, which was a high-yielding technology from China.

“Dr Muhammad Ali Raza of the Islamia University of Bahawalpur has recently graduated from Sichuan Agricultural University of China, and has expertise in intercropping, especially soybean intercropping with different crops, and he has efficiently introduced this technology in different areas of Pakistan. We have been collaborating with China at different stages and in different technologies,” Dr Zahir Ahmad said.

Hafiz Saad Bin Mustafa, he said, was also working on promoting maize-soybean intercropping technology brought by Dr Ali and had achieved promising results.

“Many people thought soybean can’t be cultivated in Pakistan but I didn’t think that way. Dr Ali supported my point. People were not shifting to soybean because they thought it’s a competition with maize. However, with intercropping, people can grow maize and soybean at the same place. Then we identified intercropping specific lines or varieties. We provide those lines to Dr Ali for evaluation for the last two years. The yield advantage is double or 2.5 times higher than the conventional varieties” he added.

Hafiz said,”Soybean intercropping technology fits Pakistan’s conditions well and hopefully to be applied in more areas. Traditional rice areas or cotton areas lie uncultivated for a specific time period as no crop fits it at that time period. We roughly made a calculation and estimated that if we use 60% of that kind of land, we can make a profit of at least $3 billion annually. This is from the area that is uncultivated, free, and on which farmers are unable to earn anything. We have grown soybean in those areas.

“Secondly, soybean is a leguminous plant. It fixes atmospheric nitrogen as it contains nitrogen-fixing root nodules. By this, the fertility level of free soil will also increase and farmers will need less nitrogen for the next crop. So, you are making economic gains and getting soybean crops plus soil fertility is also improved. So we are doing this,” Hafiz analyzed.

“As we know, Pakistan’s oilseed import bill is increasing. We are importing in billions of dollars. If we locally produce soybean, we can cope with the challenge of importing oilseeds. In addition, China is the largest importer of soybean from the USA. If we produce soybean locally in our country, we can have the chance to export soybean to China instead of importing it,” Muqadas Saleem, Scientist Soybean Breeding at the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad said.

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