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 categorized 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 80 per cent of the total produce.
A 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 three per cent of quality seed is available in the country.
Potato growing season is now underway in the country with almost the end of monsoon season. The target set for 2016-2017 is 3.8 million tonnes, whereas the domestic potato requirement is three million tonnes. Roughly one million tonnes of surplus potato is available for export.
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 four 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.