Pakistan Seed Industry News 2020

This page features a compilation and selection of Pakistani seed industry news briefs, summaries and leads, with an emphasis on events that impact or affect provinces, regions, counties, cities and locales in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. 

The news covers trends and events regarding seed regulation, testing, legislation, phytosanitary issues, intellectual property rights, biotechnology (genomics, gene-editing) plant breeding, agronomy and cropping, with original sources linked.

This page will be updated throughout the year, with most recent briefs listed first.

May 2020

Cotton seed price intervention

The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) on May 7 rejected a proposal from the Ministry of National Food and Security and Research to intervene with the price of seed cotton (phutti) at 4,224 rupees per 40 kgs, reports Pakistan Today. The Federal Cabinet, though opposing the decision of the ECC, has asked to review its decision through a four-member committee. The news is reportedly welcome by cotton growers, while textile millers are against fixing the intervention price. 

Committee calls for probe into poor seed, pesticide quality

The Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry’s Standing Committee on Agriculture has called for the government to look into issues related to substandard quality of seeds and pesticides. Among the issues raised is very poor germination of  cotton seeds and ineffective pesticides. The group, according to Pakistan Today, as well as Urdu Point, claims the poor quality of the inputs may be linked to “cartelization”. 

Cotton sowing guidelines issued

The Farmers Advisory Committee (FAC) has issued a number of cotton sowing guidelines for farmers planning to sow seeds during the month of May. Among their suggestions include treating seeds to address pest threats, while only sowing registered seed varieties approved by the government, in addition to sowing quantity recommendations corresponding to germination strength, reports Urdu Point.

PARC pushes mechanical sowing to boost rice productivity

The Chairman of the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC), Dr. Muhammad Azeem Khan, during a visit to Gujranwala, has rice cultivators that mechanical sowing of the crop could increase productivity by up to 15% while saving on manual labour, reports Pak Observer.

Bad weather woes for Shangla crops

Heavy rains, snowfall, hailstorms, cold weather and landslides have caused hardship for people in the Shangla District of the Malakand Division of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Reports Urdu Point, the bad weather in mid-May had caused “severe damage to standing crops”.

Ag only sector to grow as economy retracts for first time in 68 years

For the first time in 68 years, Pakistan’s economy will have marginally contracted by, suggests data covering the most recent fiscal year, which ends June 30, reveals..  This negative forecast as reported by Tribune Pakistan, cites “adverse impacts of the novel coronavirus coupled with economic stabilisation policies that had hit the industrial sector much before the deadly pandemic.” However, the agriculture sector grew by 2.7%, which is in contrast to the industrial and services sectors, which witnessed negative growth rates, pulling the overall growth rate down to negative 0.38% in the fiscal year 2019-20. 

April 2020

Cotton support price, relaxed seed germination standards proposed

The Business Recorder Pakistan reports that a minimum support price for this year’s cotton crop has been pitched at 5,000 rupees per maund (37.2 kilograms). Meanwhile there is some disagreement on a proposal to ease cotton seed germination standard to 50% this year in response to bad weather and other economic woes. The article also cites discussion on a ‘truth in label’ standard.

Punjab cotton growers switching to sugarcane

Dawn reports on the trend of cotton farmers in Pakistan’s cotton belt, Punjab, switching over to sugarcane, citing the recent bad season for cotton marred by pest attacks and temperature fluctuations. 

Sewage-irrigated vegetable crops destroyed

The Punjab Food Authority (PFA) has destroyed thousands of kilograms of vegetables crops on a plot of land in Raheem Yar Khan, alleging that the crops had been irrigated with sewage water. The Urdu Point reports that the crops destroyed included pumpkin and apple gourd.

Food crisis looms as locust swarms spread

News reports suggest that Pakistan’s agriculture sector continues to struggle from locust infestations, citing increasing concerns of a severe food security crisis. In Balochistan, the Education Minister appealed to the federal and provincial governments to arrange sprays on emergency basis in order to eradicate locusts from the province, which have caused severe damage to crops in Kachi, Naseerabad and Sibi districts of Balochistan, reports the Express Tribune. Meanwhile, out of 18 workable spray planes, only two were available in hangers in Karachi and Lahore, according to an article by the Urdu Point, which relayed form an April 6 SWAC Virtual Meeting (April 6) a warning from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the UN that desert locust colonies were rapidly spreading in border areas of Pakistan, including in Hormozgan, Bunder Abbas, Fars, Khuzestan, Kerman and Bushehr. According to estimates, locusts and other pending issues have cause 100 billion rupee losses, especially to wheat, oil seed and fodder crops sectors. 

Farmers to be compensated for hailstorm damage

Urdu Point on April 28 cites the Speaker of the National Assembly Asad Qaiser saying that farmers in Swabi and different areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, whose crops were severely damaged by a recent severe hailstorm, would be compensated. According to another article by Pakistan Today, hail-damaged crops included tobacco, wheat and various varieties of vegetables.  

Wheat rust susceptible varieties suggested to be delisted, substituted

Express Tribune Pakistan reports that scientists at the Ayub Agricultural Research Institute recommended delisting nine low yielding or wheat-rust disease susceptible varieties of wheat. The  varieties include TD-1, Seher-06, Galaxy-13, Galaxy-2, Gandam-1, AARI-12, AS-2002, Chakwal-50 and Pakistan-13, which reportedly  demonstrated more susceptibility to wheat rust. Meanwhile, the institute has suggested several other varieties that were less susceptible and thus would like have better yields. These include Akbar-19, Anaj-17, Ujala-16, Faisalabad-08, Barani-17, Fatehjang-16, Fakhar-e-Bhakkar, Zincol, FatehJang-16, Gold-16 and NARC-11. 

50pc rice seed subsidies in Lower Dir District

Urdu Point reports that the Agriculture Department in the Lower Dir District of the Malakand Division of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. According to the report, a total of 15,000 kg of rice seed has been provided by the province to the district for the current growing season, and would be made available to farmers at a 50 percent subsidy. Farmers are urged to contact local farm centers to acquire the subsidized seeds, which can also be delivered directly to farmers who have difficulties in obtaining transport during the “prevailing difficult situation” 

Punjab wheat drive, productivity and seed distribution

The Punjab Chief Minister has leading efforts to bolster the wheat sector, having inaugurated a wheat harvest campaign at a village in Rojhan tehsi, where 4.5 million metric tonnes of wheat would be procured in an ongoing drive in which farmers would be paid 1,400 rupees per maund. Punjab reportedly is anticipating to yield 19 million metric tonnes of wheat from a planted area of 16.5 million acres. The Pakistan Today article also mentions a project worth 12.5 billion rupees, which aims to enhance productivity of wheat. Moreover, 400,000 bags of certified wheat seed were provided to farmers at a subsidised price this year, and this would be tripled in the next season. 

March 2020

Seed & fertilizer shops allowed to remain open during coronavirus lock-down

Urdu Point reports that Pakistan’s Agriculture Secretary has directed officials of the agriculture department branches to extend maximum awareness to farmers about precautionary measures against corona and also issued advisory for crops, while confirming that seed and fertilizer shops would remain open during this time.

 APSA has also received a copy of an order from the Pakistani government, prioritizing the agriculture sector during lockdown, download here.

Cotton seeds to be delivered to farmers doorsteps

Urdu Point reports that the Central Cotton Research Institute (CCRI) is offering to deliver cotton seeds to farmers’ doorsteps, and at recommended government prices. The article offers contact information and ordering instructions, and notes that the CCRI has advised farmers to sow five to six kilogrammes per acre in order to achieve “handsome production”. 

Subsidies for certified seed, sowing equipment mechanization

Punjab government is gearing to launch an ambitious project worth Rs6 billion to promote mechanisation, usage of certified seed and responsible application of pesticides according to the quantity prescribed by the agricultural experts.

Under this project, farmers will be given 50% subsidy on the purchase of certified rice seed. The government will bear 50% of the cost on the usage of different types of machinery such as transplanters, nursery raising machines, DSR-drill, rice straw choppers, rotavators and power sprayers. 

Rains devastated wheat crops in Bahawalpur, Punjab: Daily Times 

‘Olive revolution’ underway: Dawn.com reports on targets to grow olives on 50,000 acres, with figures of current and expected growing, production capacity included in the article. 

‘wheat crisis’: Tribune Pakistan reports on a probe into why wheat had been smuggled out, e.g. 40,000 tons reportedly exported despite a ban and plunging stocks that caused Pakistan to need to import 300,000 tons duty free. 

Aus-Pakistan partnership in pulse production

 Pakistan and Agriculture join in a project run by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research and Charles Sturt University. The aim is to help improve pulse production, including chickpeas, lentils, and peanuts growing in poorer villages, generally in alkaline sand areas with an annual rainfall of 200mm.

China to deploy ducks to Pakistan fight locust swarms

February 2020

Farmers Bureau pushes for maize seed self-sufficiency

According to an article in the Business Recorder Pakistan, the Farmers Bureau of Pakistan (FBP) is urging for the government to take immediate steps to reduce the cost of agricultural inputs, including seeds and fertilizers. The news follows reports of farmers citing a bad year in both kharif (rainy season) and Rabi (winter season) cropping, noting the cost of seeds from private companies had been raised. “We demand from the government that all the private companies who are importing corn seed should immediately start producing, at least 25 percent of the seed, locally and should ultimately produce 100 percent within the country, in some agreed timeline.” a representative of FBP is quoted as saying.

Seed variety approval to be made easier: high-level meeting told

A high-level meeting attended by cotton industry reps, and presided over by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, was told that the government would make the process for approving new varieties of seeds easier and quicker. At the meeting attended by cotton industry stakeholders, including seed sector reps, the government agreed to give give autonomy to the Pakistan Central Cotton Committee (PCCC) through its restructuring and effective private sector representation, which would also includ reps from the seed sector, reports the Associated Press of Pakistan.

Hermetic storage solutions for better shelf-life and profits. 

APSA Member Haji Sons reports on impressive returns some of its Pakistani farmer clients are gaining thanks to the use of hermetic storage bags that can effectively extend storage life of various types of produce and commodities. The hermetic bags the company offers, in collaboration with Grain Pro, not only “elongate the shelf-life of commodities stored but also discourage the use of chemicals to keep insects away, thereby ensuring producer and consumer health,” the company reports. Unlike traditional plastic and Jute bags commonly used to sstore produce, the hermetic bags use gas-tight and moisture-tight materials to seal/store commodities and keep them safe from damage. Click here for more details. 

 

December 2019 & January 2020

Premier to ‘direct’ Seed Act amendments

Some news outlets — including Dawn and Express Tribune — report that Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has agreed to requests from the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association to initiate amendments to the Seed Act. Though exact details of the proposed amendments were not published in the aforementioned articles, The Wallet Pakistan indicates that the amendments may be related to streamlining the process of seed variety registration, and/or refunds of cotton cess (tax). The news comes after a “high-level” meeting between association reps and the PM which addressed the decline of cotton output, citing last year’s locust attack, middle-man adulteration and insufficient technological capacity. 

Bt cotton variety among Punjab approvals as biotechnology gains momentum 

At the 53rd meeting of Punjab Seed Council on 26 December, 2019, 25 new varieties of agricultural commodity seeds were approved, report various news outlets. Specifically, 10 varieties of “cumulative seeds” were approved, including nine olive varieties and one Bt cotton variety named as “FH-444”. In related news.Mr. Fawad Chaudhry, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Science and Technology voiced support for biotechnology to address food security challenges. As quoted by ISAAA.org, the minister said, “Pakistan must take advantage of the latest technologies, in particular biotechnology, for the advancement of agriculture.”, speaking at the National Dialogue on Agricultural Biotechnology for Food Security on December 11-12, 2019 at COMSTECH Auditorium in Islamabad. 

‘Unusual’ and ‘deadly’ winter weather a boon for strained water reserves

Reports in the first week of the New Year of unusual or unexpected precipitation in arid and hilly parts of Pakistan were hailed in the media as a good sign for farmers and agriculture. Reports of snow had initially attracted hoards of tourists to the Murree area, and a farmer in Rawat was quoted as saying that welcome rain would be beneficial for vegetable cultivation.  Likewise, a spokesman from the Pakistan Meteorological Department confirmed in another report  that increased snowfall this winter, once melted, would ultimately contribute to increased water reserves in strained reservoirs. The official said the ‘unusual cold weather’ was an effect of Climate Change. Quoted in another report by Urdu Point, the PMD  had issued snow and rain advisories for Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit Baltistan and cautioned tourists against taking “unnecessary visits in hilly areas during snowfall as due to heavy snowfall, the roads of the hill station are slippery.” He also warned of flash flooding and heavy snowfall in parts of Balochistan, in addition to landslides and avalanches in Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan, Malakand and Hazara divisions. Indeed, the unusual winter weather has also taken an unfortunate toll, with the deaths caused by the effects of winter storms reaching 75 by January 14, according to this report