Pakistan preparing for mass-scale cultivation of soybeans with China’s help
by Khalid Aziz
ISLAMABAD, August 10 (Gwadar Pro) - The Ministry of National Food Security and Research will soon launch a nationwide program for soybeans cultivation as well as maize-soybeans intercropping, an official of the Ministry told Gwadar Pro.
He said that the government had directed the Ministry to launch the program after Chinese authorities pledged to help Pakistan under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to cut its import bill and instead become an exporter of the vegetable.
Pakistan’s soybean imports stood at $1.27 billion in 2020, while the U.S. Department of Agriculture has anticipated a 35% increase in imports of the commodity in 2021. The U.S. and Brazil are the major exporters of soybeans to Pakistan.
The official said that Pakistan Oilseed Development Board was giving final touches to a 5-year plan at the cost of around Rs. 10 billion to strengthen the various organizations involved in research and production of soybeans seeds. “We expect to roll out the program in September or October,” he said.
The official said that Pakistan’s northern KP province was most suitable for soybean cultivation due to its mild weather. However, the plan aims at supporting research to develop soybeans seeds compatible with comparatively hot weather of Sindh and Punjab provinces together with promoting maize-soybeans intercropping.
“Under the program, China will provide soybeans germ plants and assist in training Pakistani plant scientists in conducting relevant research,” the official said. He said that Chinese scientists were already involved in soybeans seed research with the Islamia University of Bahawalpur, Punjab and Model Farm Services Centre, Peshawar. However, the government intends to launch a comprehensive campaign in this regard to take maximum benefit of the Chinese offer. He also informed that the scientists working in the Islamia University of Bahawalpur on maize-soybeans intercropping had also received training in China.
The official said that promoting maize-soybean intercropping was important in the context of Sindh and Punjab provinces, the food baskets of Pakistan. With intercropping technique, the maize plants protect soybeans from hot weather and in return absorb sufficient amount of nitrogen from soybeans. He further said that an experiment recently conducted by the Centre of Intercropping Technology of the Islamia University of Bahawalpur with the help of China’s Sichuan Agricultural University have shown promising results. He said that the government plans to strengthen all such programs to get desired results.