Most of the potato seeds in Pakistan highly depend on imports, hence the price of local high-quality seeds is expensive, unaffordable for many low-income farmers, said Dr Babar Ijaz, Person In Charge of Overseas Projects, Shandong Rainbow Agricultural technology Co Ltd, in an interview with China Economic Net (CEN).
“Our tissue culture laboratory is committed to producing high-quality potatoes locally, reducing our dependence on foreign seeds,” he said.
Potato is one of the rare cases in which Pakistan is not just self-sufficient for domestic use, but also an exporter.
Last year, floods devastated many kinds of crops in the country, while potato production soared to 7.937 million tons in FY22 from 5.873 million tons in FY21, up by 35% as floods did not hit Punjab, which is a hub of potato production.
By contrast, Pakistan imports 20,000 tons of potato seeds every year.
“Potato is not a crop for poor people because its initial cost of production is high. Some 35-40% of the cost goes to seeds,” said Syed Ijazul Hassan, Director of Sahiwal Potato Research Institute.
Facing such a status quo, Pakistani and Chinese enterprises have been working hard to find opportunities for cooperation.
“In addition to seed production, related potato byproducts also welcome Chinese investment. Besides, mechanised harvesting and pest control are also full of opportunities,” said Ijaz.
The most common potato diseases in Pakistan include early blight, stem rot and so on. In contrast, Chinese varieties are more resistant to pests and diseases with higher yields, which is exactly what Pakistan needs to learn to improve its own potato germplasm, he added.
“As early as 2018, Rainbow (Chinese company) had signed a memorandum of understanding with Pakistan’s Beaconhouse Group. This year, most of our work that was delayed due to the epidemic began to accelerate,” said Rainbow Deputy General Manager Fan Changcheng.
“In order to build Pakistan’s largest potato tissue culture lab, Shandong Academy of Agricultural Sciences has also invested in our plan. At present, a small-scale tissue culture facility of the first phase of the lab is under planning, with the goal of producing 500 mu (33.3 hectares), equivalent to about 1,500 tons of potato seeds, and the second phase will be expanded to 10,000 tons,” Fan added.
Since Pakistan’s potato seeds are dependent on imports, increasing the supply of local seeds can save precious foreign exchange reserves and increase the income of farmers.
“If Pakistan can realise large-scale production of high-quality potatoes, in addition to meeting domestic needs, it can also export products to other countries, such as Arab nations,” he said.
At present, Rainbow and Qatar’s vegetable institutions also have in-depth cooperation. Such a long-term plan will not only help Pakistani potato producers get rid of import dependence, but also earn foreign exchange, Fan emphasised.
Such a viewpoint was echoed by Ijaz. “First of all, we must ensure the localised production of high-quality seeds, and at the same time improve planting technology and mechanisation level. Then we might be able to export potatoes to other countries,” he said.
“We have a huge potential for countries that have smaller land areas or don’t produce much of their own potatoes.”
The article originally appeared on the China Economic Net
Published in The Express Tribune, March 4th, 2023.
Like business on Facebook, follow @TribuneBiz on Twitter to stay informed and join in the conversation.
Originally published at tribune.com.pk