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Pakistan proposes National Potato Institute; Seed potato import reduced by 50 percent

Dr. Yusuf Zafar T.I., Chairman PARC Chairing the Potato Evaluation Committee Meeting at PARC headquarters on August 24, 2017

Pakistan has reduced the import of potato seeds by 50 per cent as a result of strong public-private partnership in locally-certified potato production through planning and technical assistance.

Ahead of the start of the potato growing season, the Variety Evaluation Committee of Pakistan Agricultural Research Council has recommended improving the quality of local certified potato seed through tissue culture laboratories, and proposed the establishment of a national potato institute.

Setting up the institute will not only be a step forward to sustainable agriculture but will also help reap economic benefits by increasing yield per acre of potato to improve foreign exchange by exporting surplus production, the committee observed.

Potato is the most important crop in Pakistan after cereals with a potential of earning a significant amount for foreign exchange.

In Pakistan potato cultivation is categorised in three growing seasons as spring, summer and autumn crops with different geographical locations. Potato being a short duration crop lends itself to the multiple cropping patterns that exist. Potato in autumn is the main crop, sharing more than 80pc of the total produce.

Major constraint in potato production is the non-availability of quality seeds at the right time and at a reasonable price. At present, less than 3pc of quality seed is available in the country.

Potato growing season is now under way in the country with almost the end of monsoon season. The target set for 2016-17 is 3.8 million tonnes, whereas the domestic potato requirement is 3m tonnes. Roughly one million tonnes of surplus potato is available for export.

More from the meeting:

  • Dr. Anjum Ali, Member (PSD) PARC in his remarks said that about 5000 varieties of potato exist worldwide. In Pakistan both white and red skin varieties are cultivated but red skin is mostly liked by consumers.

  • Mian Muneer Ahmed, Chairman Potato Importers Association of Pakistan and Parliament Secretary, Punjab also participated in the meeting urged to develop of short duration potato varieties for specific needs and disease resistance system.

  • Director of Agr. Research Potato in Balochistan said that in Pakistan, Potato is commonly used as vegetable. Potato Chips and French fries demand is increasing in big cities. Biotechnological tools are also in application for developing genetically modified potato varieties.
Source: PARC
The main exporting countries are Afghanistan, Malaysia, Mauritius, Oman, Russia, Sri Lanka and United Arab Emirates.

The area under potato crop is 170,300 hectares with a total production of roughly 4.0 million tonnes as per the latest agricultural statistics. The highest production of potato is in Punjab, followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Sindh.

According to officials of the National Agricultural Research Centre in Islamabad, seed is one of the important factors that determine the productivity of potato crop. Farmers in Pakistan, with the help of seed obtained through informal seed system, are able to get an average yield of 20 tonnes potato per hectare.