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FROM EDITOR'S DESK

POTENTIAL OF ORGANIC FARMING IN


PAKISTAN
Dr. Shahid Ahmad
Organic Food
Pakistan is one of the blessed countries in the world having ample diversity in ecological and
environmental aspects. Diverse environments coupled with varying landscapes provide
comparative advantage for cultivation of crops, fruits and vegetables throughout the year.
These landscapes provide year round variability in terms of temperature and precipitation.
Early vegetables and fruits can also be grown. Three crops of potato and tomato and two
crops of rice can be grown per annum in different parts of the country.
Most of the nuts and deciduous fruits are grown in the mountainous region, where
fertlisers and pesticides are hardly used. The good examples are: walnut, pecans, pine
nut, almonds, pistachio, mulberry, apricot, fig, etc. All these nuts and fruits are grown
completely in organic environments and quality control systems can be developed for
maintaining residue free soil and marketable products. The only intervention required is to
tag these fruits as organically grown products to get premium price. Farmers can also be
organised for value addition and processing and even they can be provided knowledge and
skills for export.
There are some other fruits, which are also grown organically. These include falsa and dates.
Falsa can be used to produce juice concentrates for export. Dates in Balochistan are normally
grown organically. Why not we process the quality dates and tag these as organic fruits to
fetch premium price in the international market?
Wild cumin normally named as black cumin is grown wild in the northern mountainous
region. Even organic composts are never used as it is grown wild in the forests. It can be
tagged as wild cumin to fetch premium price in the international market.
Organic Fibers
Recently, an American Company has contacted the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and
Livestock for import of 50,000 bales of organic cotton from Pakistan. The Federal Secretary
has chaired a meeting of cotton and organic farming experts for production of organic cotton
in Pakistan. Experts have identified Balochistan province as the potential area for growing
organic cotton as the area is free of pest pressure and farmers are using very little pesticides
compared to other parts of the country.
Districts of Nasirabad, Jafarabad, Kohlu, Khuzdar and Lasbela represent the potential areas
for cultivation of organic cotton. During 1998-99, the production of cotton in Balochistan
was around 28,000 bales. Reducing the area under rice in Nasirabad and Jafarabad districts
can easily increase it. The water saved from one acre of rice will be sufficient to grow

three acres of organic cotton. Cotton is the most water efficient crop in terms of crop
water requirement and water use efficiency.
The editor in his recent visit to Balochistan has discussed the option of organic cotton with
the concerned authorities and especially with the Director General Agriculture. They are of
the opinion that already the quality of their chemically grown cotton is better than other
provinces. It will further improve with the introduction of organic farming.
The support price of chemically grown seed cotton during the year 1997-98 was around Rs.
620 per 40 kg. The yield of organic cotton might be slightly less than the chemically grown
cotton, therefore, there is a need to have premium price for organically grown cotton. The
expected value of 50,000 bales of chemically grown seed cotton would be around Rs. 132
million. It is expected that the value of organic cotton would be 2-3 fold higher to make it a
viable enterprise. Farmers may be motivated to organise themselves for production of semimanufactured products by entering into enterprises like ginning of organic cotton and
preparation of yarn as an organised action.
Organic Farming Systems
The most critical element of organic farming is the development of effective fertilisation and
pest management systems. The integrated pest management in conjunction with biopesticides can provide a practical option for production of organic cotton. The fertigation
system developed by effective microorganisms (EM) research and development
scientists/engineers at the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad and at the National
Agricultural Research Centre, Islamabad, is based on innovative approach for building and
maintaining organic systems on long-term basis. Application of organic liquid fertilisers
improves soil health and maintains productivity and profitability of organic agriculture.
The bio-fertigation systems are now available for canal and tubewell fed irrigated systems. In
fact fertigation and bio-pesticides systems are needed at the farm level instead of focussing a
commodity. Because this will help farmers to maintain farms free of chemical residues. Thus
organic approach must be focussed at the farm level instead of a commodity. The culture
and ethics of organic farming is completely different than chemical farming.
The Water Resources Research Institute, NARC and NFRDF are already engaged in building
integrated systems for organic farming and waste management. The essential elements are:
biogas production, fermentation of slurry for liquid fertiliser using EM, organic composts
forming using EM and green manuring of legumes to build soil fertility. The purpose of
biogas generation is to operate tubewell pumping systems because in future the profitability
of tubewell agriculture will be questionable due to rise in electricity tariff and increase in
diesel fuel prices. This is rather loud thinking at this stage. However, pilot-scale experience
of biogas production was so much encouraging that a closed system of plastic tank of around
650 litres capacity can generate biogas sufficient to run one burner for 60-90 minutes per day
in the summer season. It will reduce to almost half in severe winter days. The
scientists/engineers are now busy in designing the production-scale system with a standard
module of 1500 litres capacity. The daily production of gas will be sufficient to run a burner
for around 120-150 minutes.
In Pakistan, the critical factor is that we are victims of consequences. In fact, there is a need
to be visionary in identifying the comparative advantages and then link value addition with

potentials for exports of raw, semi-manufactured and manufactured products of agro-based


industry.
The poverty in Pakistan is always seen in the financial context. In fact it is the poverty of
mind. Thus poverty must be seen in the context of thinking, understanding, expressions and
actions. Once the farmers are placed in a framework of thinking, understanding and actions,
they will be in a position to find ways and means for improving their livelihood through
export of quality products in line with the demand of the international market. Therefore,
farmers should be given access to information, skills and credit in the order of priority. These
three elements are essential. The most crucial is the flow of information in line with the needs
of the farmers. Once the right information is available, then the farmers would certainly
demand training in skill enhancement. After acquiring the desired skills, the next requirement
is the availability of credit. However, in the process of providing support the farmers should
be treated as a partner and not as a client. In the society, the client's rights are not yet
established, therefore, farmers hesitate to get credit.
In brief the avenues for diversification of export are unlimited, the only requirement is
to build an enabling framework for farmers, where they can move from production to
export.