FAISALABAD - Indonesian Ambassador Adam M Tugio Friday said that Indonesia would launch joint ventures in collaboration with local investors to ensure trade balance between his country and Pakistan.

He was addressing an International Seminar on “Sustainable Vegetable Oils: Opportunities for Increased Healthy Food & Two-way Trade”, jointly organised by the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia and University of the Agriculture Faisalabad (UAF) here. He said that both countries had inked a PTA (Preferential Treatment Agreement) for the promotion of bilateral trade of agriculture commodities at reduced tariffs. He said that Indonesia imports Kinnow and mangoes in lieu of its palm oil. 

However, the volume of import is being enhanced to ensure balance between the imports and exports. He further said that the Indonesian government was also helping Pakistan to switch over to the cultivation of palm which could bring down its import bill to a substantial level. However, in this connection, university of agriculture must play a proactive role and evolve new varieties of palm which are adoptable to the local environment and could give economically better yield. 

He particularly mentioned the similarities between scenic valleys of Pakistan and Indonesia and said that Indonesia has developed its tourism sector on modern scientific lines and is now ready to share its experience and expertise in this field with Pakistan. He said that both countries should also start immediate negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) to enhance their bilateral trade in the coming years. Atif Munir Sheikh, president Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce & Industry (FCCI), said that edible oil is a major component of our food. 

“Per capita consumption of edible oil in Pakistan is around 24 kilograms (kg) per annum”, he said and added that despite of this fact we are producing a minor quantity of edible oil locally from our traditional crops like sunflower, canola and other oil seeds. Hence we have to depend on the imported edible oil which has become a permanent burden on our meager financial resources. He further said that we are importing 90% edible oil from Indonesia with a value of 4 billion dollars per annum. 

He said that our government was making strenuous efforts to enhance the domestic production of edible oil and in this connection a subsidy is being doled out on the cultivation of traditional crops. He also pointed out that cotton is a major crop after wheat in Pakistan but the current varieties have negligible quantities of oil and our main focus is on consuming this crop for yarn production.

He said that our agricultural scientists must develop new varieties of cotton which could give us a long staple of fiber with oil-enriched seeds. “If we succeed in evolving such varieties, it will not only trim our import of fine quality of cotton but also help us to reduce the overall import bill of edible oil on a sustained basis”, he added.