Agriculture is the main sector of the Pakistan economy. It provides jobs to 45 per cent of the population. Due to the high prices of agricultural produce an additional amount of Rs342 billion was transferred to the rural areas in 2010-11 alone. As against Rs329 billion were transferred during the eight years, 2001-08. However, agriculture sector growth was 1.2 per cent in 2010-11, indicated in Economic Survey. Production of minor crops in Sindh has also declined by 15 to 20 per cent, due to insufficient supply of water. Potato is one of the cash crops for the farmers and is also one of the main exportable horticulture items from Pakistan.
Definition of Potato
It is a South American plant (Solanum tuberosum) widely cultivated for its starchy edible tubers.
Potato ranks third among food crops, after wheat and rice, and fifth in total agro products in Pakistan. Potato produces high energy and nutritional value per unit area than wheat, rice and maize. Pakistan is one of the largest potatoes producing country in the world. The total production of potatoes was about 1.8 million metric tonnes (MMT) in 1988-99 that increased to 2.94 MMT in 2008-09. The production increased from 860 thousand (k) tonnes, 1991-92, to 3141k tonnes in 2009-10, which was the highest in the history of potato production.
The domestic demand of potato is about 1.5 million tonnes, leaving a surplus quantity of 1.9 MMT. Minfal said that it is encouraging the private sector to export potato by adding value, i.e., processing into chips and other forms of snacks.
The production target was fixed at 2,148.26k tonnes. About 127.75k hectare of land was reserved to grow potato to achieve the target. However, production reached 2.94 MMT in 2008-09 and 3.14 million tonnes in 2009-10. For the Rabi season 2010-11 the government has set potato production target of 2.64 million tones.
Punjab, Sindh, KP and Balochistan shared 83, 1, 10 and 6 per cent of the total area and 83, 1, 9 and 7 per cent of the total production of potatoes in the country. For 2010-11, province wise potato production targets were: The target for Punjab was fixed at 307.6k tonnes, over an area of 137.1k hectares, KP 170.5k tonnes on 12.3k hectares and Balochistan 690.4k tonnes over an area of 39.1k hectares. The Punjab’s share in total production is about 85 to 90 per cent that comes from autumn and spring crops. Total production in Punjab was estimated as an increase of 11.5 per cent per annum during 18 years, total 107 per cent, due to increase of 4.88 and 4.74 percent in area and yield, respectively. Sindh’s target was fixed at 2.70k tonnes over an area of 0.31k hectares. The area decreased from 0.6k, 1991-92 to 0.4k in 2009-10 resulting in production decrease from 5.2k to 2.8k ton in 2009-10. Balochistan’s target was set up at 32.9k tonnes on an area of 3.22k hectare. In Balochistan, only summer crop is cultivated and the production has reduced at the rate of 1.70 per cent per annum because the area under the crop has reduced at the rate of 2 per cent per annum. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s (KP) target was 123.89k tonnes over an area of 8.7k hectare. Total production from these crops has increased at the rate of 4 percent due to 1.9 per cent expansion in area and 2 per cent rise in yield.
The average price of 40 kg potatoes in 1993-94 was Rs145 that increased to Rs710 in 2009-10. The average retail price in Karachi was Rs10.18 per kg in 1998-99 that is now being sold at Rs25 to Rs30 per kg. Due to floods potato prices had increased and a 100 kg sack price soared to Rs4500 and retail price reached Rs40 to Rs50 per Kg in Aug/Sep2011.
Potatoes trade is done by the private sector. However, government facilitates the system by providing physical infrastructure especially wholesale markets and communication, market intelligence, market promotion and regulatory measures for smooth business operations. The potatoes harvested in autumn are usually exported due to their large size and low prices. The annual export of potato from the country averaged about 50,000 tonnes during the past 5 years. Annual imports of Sri Lanka are over 60,000 tonnes and Malaysia over 100,000 tonnes potatoes. Pakistan’s share is 60 percent and 14 percent, respectively. The share in Sri Lanka can be increased to 75 per cent, i.e. an additional 15,000 tonnes and in case of Malaysia up to 50 per cent, i.e. an additional 43,000 tonnes. Markets in East Europe and Africa Regions should also be explored.
Exported over the extended periods. The government aimed to establish CA facility for fruits and vegetables to increase lives of perishable items. The CA facilities would be established in different cities of the country with a total cost of Rs2.229 billion. The project would have modern CA storage facilities and advance ventilated cold storage rooms for fruits and vegetables at Peshawar, Quetta, Gilgit and Multan etc. The storage facilities would be built in collaboration with a Chinese company through procurement of needed machinery and its installation. The scheme would increase shelf life of agricultural products like apple and pear. According to the plan, CA rooms would be established in Peshawar, Quetta and Multan, each having 5,000 ton of storage capacity of fruits and vegetables while in Gilgit the CA room will have 1,000 ton of storage capacity and would be used to store cherry. For the establishment of this project, which is expected to be completed in five years 2010 to 2015, the government of China would provide Rs1.862 billion as grant and local component for this scheme includes Rs366.878 million. The Ministry of Food and Agriculture is the sponsoring agency for this project and the Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC) Islamabad would be the executing agency for it. The advance storage facilities would be available to store about 34k ton of fruits and vegetables per annum. While the advanced ventilated potato storage rooms would be established in Okara, Daska and Karachi having 6,000 ton of potato storage capacity.