Imported seeds fast replacing local varieties in Pakistan

In this file photo, Pakistani workers carry freshly picked cotton at a factory at Khanewal in the central province of Punjab on Feb.24, 2016. (AFP)
Updated 02 October 2018

Imported seeds fast replacing local varieties in Pakistan

KARACHI: Agriculture constitutes the largest sector of Pakistan’s economy and the majority of the population depends on it. It contributes about 24 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), accounts for half of the country’s employed labor force, and is the largest source of foreign exchange earnings. It feeds the whole rural and urban populations of Pakistan.
The country has a rich biodiversity and multinational companies have realized this. Thousands of varieties of seeds, medicinal plants and herbs have been developed over hundreds of years by farming communities, who were well-equipped with indigenous knowledge of the local environment, climate and conditions for agricultural production.
But the day is not far off when the entire seed business will be controlled by seed companies, leaving local farmers totally dependent on imported or multinationals’ seeds.
In 2013, Pakistan’s total seed requirements were more than 1.6 million metric tons, whereas the country could produce only 362,000 metric tons of certified seeds. The country has four cash crops — cotton, wheat, rice and sugarcane — which have a major contribution in the country’s GDP worth more than $313 billion.
There are 760 companies in the seed production business in Pakistan, including five multinational companies. The informal sector is still the major seed supplier in the country, with more than 90 percent of the seeds used coming from farmers and other sources such as commissioned agents, retailers and shopkeepers.
Cotton is a strategic crop for Pakistan and a major source of exports. Since 2008, hybrid or GM cotton is being cultivated in more than 90 percent of the cotton belt across Pakistan without proper trials.
Recently, the Pakistan Central Cotton Committee, while ringing an alarm bell, revealed that GM seeds had contaminated all local cotton seed varieties.
Meanwhile, local research institutes have almost abandoned research work, and almost all vegetable seeds are now being imported from India and other countries. Until a few years ago, these seeds were produced locally. Nowadays hybrid corn seeds are imported by multinationals, while fruit seeds including watermelon, melon, strawberries, tomato, capsicum, cucumber, and even coriander are also being imported.
The reason for the fast replacement of indigenous seeds with multinational seeds is a lack of research and development on new varieties, as the local research institutions have completely abandoned this segment. Now, even for cotton, researchers are completely reliant on multinationals after introducing their GM genes into local cotton seed varieties.
As a result, the production of cotton is constantly declining, while the fiber quality is also deteriorating. After the large-scale cultivation of the GM Bt cotton, new pests have emerged and secondary pests are out of control. This means farmers have to bear the additional cost of pesticides, while production is decreasing and seeds are losing their germination quality.
Currently only wheat seed is produced locally, but GM lobbyists are also trying to capture that market. Sugarcane is another cash crop and these seeds are imported from Sri Lanka and Mexico as it is a tropical-weather seed. Indigenous seeds are being replaced without proper impact studies and the authorities lack the proper facilities and skilled workers.
The imported seeds also bring inherited diseases and pests, such as the American cotton bollworm. To cover their negligence, regulators and researchers are linking production loss with climate change impacts.
Though the world’s sixth-most populous country has consistently been a net importer of sowing seeds in terms of value, it has achieved trade surpluses for specific types of seed, including wheat, barley, cotton and herbaceous flowering plants. Still, its dependence on foreign seed supplies remains high. In 2016, the country logged a seed trade deficit of just under $550 million, deriving from $560 million of imports and a little more than $10 million of exports.
The downward journey of Pakistan’s seed exports started in 2014, when they plummeted by 72 percent in volume and 41 percent in value, and this sharp decline has continued.


Egypt’s sovereign wealth fund to raise authorized capital five-fold up to $62.15 billion

Updated 12 November 2019

Egypt’s sovereign wealth fund to raise authorized capital five-fold up to $62.15 billion

  • Egypt’s parliament passed a law allotting 5 billion Egyptian pounds of start-up capital for the fund last year
  • Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi: Egypt could dramatically expand the size of its new sovereign wealth fund to ‘more than several trillion pounds’

CAIRO: Egypt’s sovereign wealth fund is expected to increase its authorized capital to up to a trillion Egyptian pounds ($62.15 billion) from 200 billion pounds within three years, depending on investors’ appetite, the fund’s executive director said.
Last year, Egypt’s parliament passed a law allotting 5 billion Egyptian pounds of start-up capital for the fund, called the Egypt Fund, with 1 billion pounds to be transferred immediately from the treasury.
The law also allows the president, who picks the board of directors, to transfer the ownership of any unused state assists to the fund or to any of the fund’s assists or companies.
“We expect to increase our licensed capital within three years to a trillion pounds or less ... it all depends on the investors’ response and investment appetite,” said Ayman Soliman, the fund’s chief executive.
“The sectors we will work in include industry, traditional and renewable energy, tourism and archaeology,” Soliman said.
President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said last month that Egypt could dramatically expand the size of its new sovereign wealth fund to “more than several trillion pounds,” and that it “aims to contribute to sustainable economic development through management of its funds and assets.”
The fund plans to buy a stake of about 30 percent in power plants built by Siemens, Soliman said, adding that six international investors have expressed interest.
“So far, six companies submitted offers to the Electricity Holding company to buy shares in the Siemens power plant,” Soliman said.
The plants, billed at the time as the world’s biggest, were built by Siemens in a €6 billion ($6.61 billion) deal signed in 2015. El-Sisi inaugurated them last year.
In May, Electricity Minister Mohamed Shaker said that the government is considering selling the power plants to private investors, but talks were still at an early stage.