Cauliflower opens up new chapter for China-Pak agricultural coop
By Wu Siya | China Economic Net Apr 25, 2022
TIANJIN, Apr. 25 (China Economic Net) - “Pakistan imports more than 90 percent of the cauliflower seeds. Hybrid varieties are what we are badly in need of. Now, the major market share belongs to China. They can provide comparatively cheaper seeds,” noted Muhammad Muzaffar Raza, a science officer of Vegetable Research Institute at Ayub Agriculture Research Institute (AARI). His viewpoint was echoed by leading grower Farman Khan, “since we planted Chinese varieties, our income has greatly increased. Our market is in short supply of Chinese cauliflower seeds frequently.”
Pakistani vegetable farmers enjoying a bumper harvest of cauliflower [Photo provided to CEN]
As a main vegetable on the table of Pakistanis, local cauliflower varieties in Pakistan have a long growth cycle and low yields, while high-end hybrid varieties are mostly monopolized by Western developed countries. However, cauliflower seeds of high quality from Tianjin have spanned a distance of nearly 4,500 kilometers and took root in Pakistan.
“Since 2016, we have cooperated with Pakistan on cauliflower hybrid planting by carrying out experiments, demonstrations and promotions in multiple growing seasons. So far, our orders have doubled several times,” said Sui Liying, Executive Deputy General Manager of Tianjin Tianlong Zaitian Agricultural Science and Technology Co., Ltd., in an exclusive interview with China Economic Net. “The yield per mu (0.067 hectares) of local varieties is 600-700 kilograms, while that of our varieties is basically 1,300-2,000 kilograms with certain late maturing variety even reaching 3,000-4,000 kilograms. In the past, Pakistan used to think the quality of Chinese seeds seems to be not as good as that from European countries and the U.S., but now they have changed this perception. Our seed variety has a germination rate of 90 percent, above the international standard of 85 percent. You buy the seeds at a low price, but their survival rate is high. Farmers can get a double advantage.”
The planting base of Tianjin Tianlong Zaitian Agricultural Science and Technology Co., Ltd. [Photo provided to CEN]
Pakistani farmers choose Chinese seeds not only because of low prices. “If you only rely on low prices to occupy the market, but the quality is not guaranteed, you will soon be eliminated from the market.” In this regard, Sui also proposed corresponding measures. “Pakistan is located in South Asia, where the temperature is relatively high, so insects multiply rapidly, resulting in pests and diseases that seriously affect agricultural output. The heat and disease resistance of Chinese early-maturing varieties are more suitable for Pakistan’s climate. We have a special pest and disease nursery, that contains various pests and diseases that have accumulated for many years. We first select varieties here without using any pesticides, so the varieties that can grow have better resistance. Then we choose those varieties that perform well to transplant in other nurseries for selection.”
Regarding this, Sui Liying also mentioned the impact of the cauliflower harvest season on market price fluctuations. As a cold-loving cruciferous crop, a particularly hot climate may stunt the emerging curd of cauliflower, so heat-resistant cauliflower varieties are crucial to compensate for the reduced yield caused by the climate.
The growing cycle is also another key factor that affects the price of the cauliflower market in Pakistan. Although cauliflower is available throughout the year in Pakistan, the early-maturing variety is more expensive. Cauliflower available in October can get higher earnings. In December-February when its yield reaches peak, losses may occur.
“We have about 6,000 copies of cauliflower germplasm resources in Tianjin. Short-duration ones take 40-50 days, medium-duration ones 70-80 days, and long-duration varieties mature in 100 days plus. At present, Pakistan hopes that the weight of the single cauliflower is relatively large, over one kilogram, with short-duration,” Sui told CEN, “It is also our main breeding direction for the local market.”
In 2019, the Tianjin Academy of Agricultural Sciences completed the world's first genome sequencing of cauliflower, with China ranking top in global cauliflower's research. Last year, the cauliflower seeds exported from Tianjin accounted for more than 20 percent of Pakistan's annual planting volume, effectively helping the local area solve the problem of the cauliflower industry being monopolized by developed countries. Nevertheless, the pace of cooperation goes far beyond that.
Sun Deling (L) and Shan Xiaozheng (R), Researchers at the Vegetable Research Institute of Tianjin Academy of Agricultural Sciences, discussed cauliflower breeding technology [Photo provided to CEN]
“We have already achieved our first victory in the field of cauliflower. In the future, we plan to carry out joint breeding with large enterprises in Pakistan firstly, aiming to establish the largest vegetable seed R&D center in Pakistan, and bring varieties and technology together to Pakistan. Second, we will combine quality germplasm resources from China and Pakistan for joint breeding and directional breeding to cultivate varieties more suitable for planting in Pakistan,” Sui made an outlook on future development plans, which was endorsed by Muhammad Muzaffar Raza, “Because of our good relations with China, except for seed technologies, we can import agricultural machineries like the transplanter, picker or harvester for any vegetable or crop at a reasonable price. By promoting these techniques and machinery to progressive farmers firstly, definitely we can increase the pace of our agricultural modernization.”
“In addition to cauliflower, we will also export Chinese cabbage, cucumbers, peppers, melons and other high-quality seed resources to Pakistan in the future. We look forward to the complementary advantages of China and Pakistan’s industries to bring new vitality to the Belt and Road agricultural cooperation,” Sui concluded.