ISLAMABAD - Pakistan can reduce its edible oil import bill considerably by focusing on enhancing its mustard oil production, WealthPK reported. Rapeseed-mustard is Pakistan’s second-most significant oil source after cottonseed. With an annual production of 233,000 tonnes and a cultivation area of 307,000 hectares, it provides around 17% of domestic edible oil production. Talking to WealthPK, Nazakat Nawaz, Principal Scientific Officer at the National Agriculture Research Centre (NARC), said although mustard has been a staple crop for farmers for many years and has an average oil extraction rate of 32-38%, farmers currently place little emphasis on growing this crop. “Nearly everywhere, there are small plots of land with mustard oilseed crops. Sharecroppers are aware that landlords do not prioritize growing mustard among their priority crops,” Nazakat said. “Farmers prefer large-scale food and cash crops. Depending on the availability of water, they can only set aside a small portion of additional area to grow mustard,” he said. Nazakat said that despite mustard’s importance in the local market and popularity, particularly in urban areas, farmers give it a low priority. “Farmers prefer wheat production over mustard. Since it grows in October and wheat grows in November, these crops are in competition,” he pointed out. The official said that increasing land degradation all around is a major cause of concern for farmers, who are unable to maintain soil fertility or even maintain per acre yield. “We need to provide incentives and entice farmers to grow mustard. We also have technologies and seeds to grow the mustard crop. The reason that farmers don’t bother to grow the mustard crop is that they get a decent price for their wheat,” he said. However, he said, mustard crop has the ability to grow naturally on dry terrain, and doesn’t require much water. “More than anything else, its production will have an impact on the import bill of edible oil. Approximately 70% of domestic needs are satisfied by imports. If we increase mustard crop area by utilising the lands which are not being used for wheat crop,” he said. According to experts, oilseed crops offer enormous production and domestic demand potential. One of the most important daily necessities is edible oil. Pakistan’s production has been chronically and consistently below its true potential. After palm oil and soybean oil, mustard seed is the third most important source of vegetable oil in the world. Notably, it is the second-largest source of protein meal in the world, behind soybean meal. It is now up to the authorities to provide incentives and subsidies to farmers in order to promote these oilseed crops, especially the rapeseed and mustard.