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Export potential of potatoes

The demand for potato in Russia is increasing and Pakistan may export 120,000 to 125,000 metric tonnes potato to Russia that would bring millions of dollars in the country.

Presently, the international market price ranges $ 500 per metric tonnes. Pakistan exports potatoes to Dubai, Malaysia, Singapore and Iran. Total export of fresh or chilled potatoes were 245.329 million kg in 2009-10 fetched $ 50.267 million whereas $ 41.635 million were earned by exporting 315.321 kg in 2008-09.

To fulfill the Russia�s terms of importing potatoes from Pakistan, a private sector company has installed the country�s first automated state of the art potato cleaning plant in Karachi. The locally assembled plant was set up at a cost of about Rs 5 million. It would be utilised for value addition in potato and making them acceptable in the international market. It would not only do sand washing but would also help in grading process.

The total domestic production was around 1.8 million metric tones in 1988-99, of which 280,000 metric tones was used as seed and 1.5 million metric tones was available for consumption, after post harvest losses. The production increased to 2.94 million metric tonnes in 2008-09. During this period the area increased from 110 thousand hectares to 145 thousand hectares.

The domestic demand of potato is about 1.5 million tonnes, including for keeping seeds for new crop leaving a surplus quantity of 1.4 million metric tonnes. Minfal said it has encouraged the private sector to export potato or by it�s processing into chips and other forms of snacks.

For the Rabi season 2010-11 the government has set potato production target of 2.64 million tonnes showing a 4 percent lower target. Last year, the target for potato crop was 2.749 million tonnes over a sowing area of 0.160 million hectors whereas the production exceeded the target and reached 3.008 million tonnes.

For 2010-11, province-wise potato production targets are: Punjab will grow 2.483 million tonnes potato over an area of 147.68 thousand hectares. The Punjab�s share in total production is about 85 percent that comes from autumn and spring crops. Total production in Punjab was estimated to increase at the rate 9.82 percent per annum due to increases of 4.88 and 4.74 percent in area and yield, respectively.

Sindh production target was fixed at 2.70 thousand tonnes with an area of 0.31 thousand hectares. The area and yield of potatoes in Sindh have increased by 2.38 and 1.50 percent resulting in production increase of 4 percent per annum.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa target was 121.89 thousand ton over an area of 9.26 thousand hectare. Climatic conditions are favourable in KP to grow all three crops of potatoes. Total production from these crops has increased at the rate of 4 percent due to 2 percent expansion in area and 2 percent rise in yield.

The target for Balochistan was set up at 32.97 thousand ton on a sowing area of 3.22 thousand ton. In Balochistan, only summer crop is cultivated and the production has reduced at the rate of 1.70 percent per annum because the area under the crop has reduced at the rate of 2 percent.

Punjab, Sindh, KP and Balochistan accounts for 83, 1, 10 and 6 percent of the total area and 83, 1, 9 and 7 percent of the production of potatoes in the country. The shares of autumn, spring and summer crops in the annual production are estimated at 75, 10 and 15 percent, respectively. Potato ranks third among food crops, after wheat and rice and fifth in total crop Pakistan produces high energy and nutritional value per unit than wheat, rice and maize. Although potato production in Pakistan has increased manifolds but it�s per acre yield is far below than the other countries of the world. The most important factor for the low yield per acre was diseases. More than 18 potato diseases are reported in the country, of which 13 are of common occurrence.

Main Potato Producing Areas: Okara, Sahiwal, Kasur, Sialkot, Sheikhupura, Jhang, Lahore, Narowal, Pakpattan, Gujranwala, TobaTek Singh, Dibalpur, and Khanewal in Punjab, Nowshera, Dir and Mansehra in KP and Pishin, Killa Saifulla and Kalat in Balochistan are important potato growing areas, accounting for 78 percent of the total production of the crop.

Kinds of potatoes: Table potato, fresh sweet potatoes, yellow potatoes and d dried potatoes.

The floodwaters have washed away the bulk of country�s kharif crops that were also included potato. Therefore, Pakistan has to import potatoes from India arrived in Lahore via the Wagah boarder. Due to shortage potato prices increased to an unprecedented level of Rs 45 to Rs 60 per kg. It was available at Rs 8 per kg up to 2008.

It is the fourth most important crop by volume of production; high yielding and having a high nutritive value and gives high returns to farmers.

The percentage of the potato crop used for processing has steadily increased. Pakistan is self sufficient in potatoes for household consumption and depends more than 99 percent on locally produced potatoes.

Although Pakistan is a large potato producing country yet it has very limited storage and processing facilities. For enhancing potato production farmers must have the proper variety and availability of virus free seed stock is essential. The seed contributes to about 35 to 40 percent of the total cost of production. The certified seed production is limited and faces technical, economical and managerial skills, which is not available in the country.

Besides, low purchasing power of the farmers compels them to rely on seed sources of low quality or from own production. Punjab Seed Corporation (PSC) has started the sale of virus free potato seed prepared through modern tissue culture technology (TCT). The limited quantities of Caroda, Santee, Burna and Easterx are also available in addition to red varieties of desiries, cardinal and white variety Diamante. The farmers are facing many problems such as diseases and pests and majority of farmers are lacking knowledge of the right cultivation technique. The lack of credit facilities are one of the main hurdles creates problem in purchasing inputs particularly for small farmers.

Poor post harvest handling, lack of transport and storage facilities, causes losses and reduction in quality and quantity. Although cold storage space is available but handling of potatoes is not satisfactory. Moreover, the farmers and consumers always face severed cyclical shortage that results big fluctuations in price, sometimes there is surplus production and at another time acute shortage. This situation results in an unreliable income and inhibiting the consumers to include potato in their regular diet. 

By Ismat Sabir Courtesy Daily Times.

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