Climate change: Pakistan develops new varieties of sesame

The Ayub Agricultural Research Institute (AARI) is developing more varieties of sesame, as it is considered the best crop to resist climate change in Pakistan.

Speaking to WealthPK, Dr Sajid Rehman, Director General of the AARI, said the institute was working hard to introduce seed varieties with the potential to withstand climate change. He said sesame crops could be a good source of earning for the farmers.
Highlighting the potential of sesame, he said during the last one-and-a-half years, Pakistan exported $1.5 billion worth of sesame, improving the forex reserves. He said considerable increase in exports of agricultural commodities like rice, sesame, chili peppers, fruits and other agricultural products was expected through the Pakistan-China Free Trade Agreement.

He urged the agri-scientists to improve the cultivation techniques and boost production of climate-resistant crops like sesame.

Ali Raza, a farmer with sesame cultivation experience, told WealthPK that he had been cultivating sesame for years but could not get high profits. He said the potential of sesame against climate change was excellent; however, it could not be considered a cash crop like wheat and cotton. He said unlike wheat and cotton, finding buyers for sesame was a challenging task.

Dr Rehman said the sesame cultivation area had exceeded over one million acres in the last two to three years. This happened due to the new sesame varieties, increased per-acre production, and effective marketing. It's a good sign that Pakistan is earning a handsome amount by exporting sesame, rice, fruits, vegetables and other agricultural products. These crops earned more than $7 billion for Pakistan this year.

Dr Ihsan from the Oilseeds Department of AARI, told WealthPK that sesame seeds contain calcium, iron, and copper, which was beneficial for bones and relieving joint pain.

Seeds also contain high-quality edible oil and protein. Besides, their oil is also used in medicines, soaps, and perfumes. Similarly, sesame is also beneficial for cattle and poultry feeds.

Talking to WealthPK, Javed Kamal, a vegetable and fruit exporter, said Chinese companies were taking keen interest in Pakistan’s agriculture sector, which would surely give it a boost. He said Pakistan and China were exchanging germ plasma of different varieties including sesame, cotton, rice and other products.

Increased cooperation between both countries will surely revolutionize the agriculture sector, he said, adding the Pakistani farmers needed attention to improve their profitability.

“Without improving the profitability of our farmers, we cannot tap the true potential of agriculture. Our farmers are currently facing issues on multiple fronts with climate change as a major threat hitting the cultivation patterns.”

Dr Ihsan said as Pakistan faced water shortage, sesame was a blessing for its farmers due to its low consumption of water. Sesame consumes less water as compared to rice and cotton.  We have to shift our focus from water-intensive crops to low consumption crops. Owing to the shorter growing season, the farmers can go for double cropping, which means an increase in their profits.

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