KARACHI: With an eye on reducing its dependency on imported edible oil, authorities in Pakistan are taking measures to encourage local production and facilitate the extraction at home.
“The Sindh Coastal Development Authority is in the process of importing an extraction mill for facilitating local farmers to extract palm oil under the public-private partnership program,” Abdul Azeem Uqaili, Director Projects of Sindh Board of Investment, said at a conference on Indonesian Palm Oil organized by the consulate general of Indonesia on Thursday.
Part of the incentives — to be provided to investors in special economic zones — includes a 10-year tax holiday and duty-free import of plant and machinery.
The country imported 1,56,718 metric ton of soybean, up 33 percent, during the fiscal year 2017-18, while import of palm oil stood at 2.84 million ton, according to the Federal Bureau of Statistics.
The consumption of edible oil has seen a steady increase, despite the fact that the local extraction from imported seeds is only around 0.80 million tons – which is 10 percent of the total consumption. “The per capita consumption of edible oil is around 18 kilograms. The total consumption in Pakistan is around 4.5 million tons per year while local,” Abdul Rasheed JanMohammed, vice president of Pakistan Edible Oil Refineries Association, said.
Pakistan imports 82 percent of palm oil from Indonesia while Malaysia contributes to only 18 percent. “We are asking for Crude Palm Oil CPO exports from Indonesia so that we should be able to create much need employment opportunities in the country,” JanMohammed said.
He added that after the import of edible oil, which is worth $1.5 billion, “we hope that Indonesia can support Pakistan in buying rice and other commodities so that our balance of trade and payment can improve”.
Pakistan has planted palm trees near the Thatha area, at an area of 50 acres, and the yields are extraordinary. “Each plant gives an average of 21 bunches and each bunch weighs around 42 kilograms which is extraordinary,” Zamir Hussain Ujjan, Deputy Director of Sindh Coastal Development Authority, told Arab News.
Ujjan said that despite the bounty, there isn’t much scope for profits as “the whole crop is wasted and becomes the feed of wild animals due to a lack of extraction facilities”.
“Malaysian experts recently visited the area and conceded that the potential in Pakistan is more than their country. Similarly, a delegation of China also visited the area and they were also surprised by the output,” he said.
Pakistan plans to plant palm trees on an area of 2.8 million acres — identified as the most suitable for plantation. “We estimate that if the production accedes by 25 percent of 0.8 million acres the country would be able to move us into an exporting position,” Ujjan, who is also directing a palm oil project worth Rs5 million, said.
In Karachi, to explore investment opportunities in the port and shipping sectors, Toto Prianamto, the consul general of Indonesia, said he hopes that the current Preferential Trade Agreement between Pakistan and Indonesia will be upgraded to the Free Trade Agreement FTA before the end of current year.
This, he concluded, will “not only cater to the local market but can be used for export purposes, too.”