GUJRANWALA - On a sunny February morning, the air in a small village in Gujranwala district carried the sweet scent of the canola flowers, which were dancing gently in the breeze.
Bees whirling on the profuse yellow blossom beaming with lush green pods were not only a view to behold, but also heralded the beginning of a new chapter in the lives of local businesspeople and farmers, who are shifting to a Chinese hybrid variety of canola seeds to reap higher yields and produce cooking oil at home. “We sowed the new variety on 100 acres of land because of their potential to produce higher yields and more oil as compared to other oilseeds including mustard and rape, which we previously used to cultivate,” Intisar Ahmad Chattha, the farm’s manager told Xinhua while carefully watching the pods.
Pakistan’s annual consumption of cooking oil is around 5 million tons, but due to the low economic potential of oilseeds in the local market, they are not preferred by the farmers. The country has to import about 89 percent of oil to meet the demand, spending 3.6 billion U.S. dollars annually. To help the country meet its edible oil demand and support its foreign exchange reserves, Chinese company Wuhan Qingfa Hesheng and a Pakistani company Evyol group jointly provide high-quality hybrid seeds to Pakistani farmers. Ghazanfar Ali, head of marketing in Evyol group told Xinhua it took them 10 years to produce a variety that is compatible with the local climate, produces a good yield and is good for human health. The crop provides an increased profit for the farmers as its standard 2 kg pack is enough to cultivate 2 acres of land, and the farmer can get 1.5 tons of yield out of it, which is over 10 percent more than the yield from other varieties currently available in Pakistan, he said, when talking about the potential of the crop.
Zhou Xusheng, director of the international business department of Wuhan Qingfa Hesheng Seed company, told Xinhua that his company is working on transferring technology to Pakistan to make it efficient in smart agriculture. “Through this project, we want to transfer the harvesting technology through which the farmers can use some attachments on the harvesters they already have and reduce the wastage,” he said. His company also wants to introduce processing units across the country, through which even in villages people can install them and produce processed oil for themselves and sell it to others, Zhou added. He said that the seed is suitable for the environment across Pakistan, and this year they sold 11 tons of seeds across the country, which will be cultivated on 20,000 acres, and their target for next year is 100 tons, which will bring a great change to Pakistan by helping the country become self-sufficient in edible oil production.
The Chinese company will also buy back the canola harvest from some of the farmers and send it to the edible oil factories so that both farmer and the factory owners can realize the potential and health benefits of the oil, Zhou added. “When Pakistan imports oil, it spends a lot of money and receives only the finished product. But when oil is produced locally, it will generate job opportunities, build an industrial chain and utilize the cakes after oil extraction as power-packed canola meal for cattle,” he added. Talking about the demand for canola meal in Pakistan, Chattha said that they have over 800 cows in the dairy farms in the area and to provide them with good quality food they have to import canola meals, which is a big financial burden due to the devaluation of the local currency. “Besides getting and selling edible oil, our main purpose to sow canola was to produce the meal for cattle,” he said, adding that he observed swarms of bees on the flowers during its ongoing full bloom season, and that they are also planning to work on beekeeping next year. “The yellow flowers in the vast plain of Gujranwala symbolize the beauty of the Pakistan-China friendship, through which a revolution can be brought to Pakistan’s agriculture sector, and the edible oilseed production is a step forward in that direction,” Ali said, while standing near a promotional board educating people about the health benefits of Chinese canola.