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Chilli farming under CPEC to expand over 5000 acres in Pakistan

  • July 19, 2021

ISLAMABAD  – After a successful pilot project at 100 acres under China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the next phase of Chilli farming will be ready for launch with upcoming sowing.

Referring to an article published by China Economic Net, Chairman CPEC Authority Lt Gen (Retd) Asim Saleem Bajwa on Sunday in a tweet said, the Chilli farming could spread over an area of 5000 acres in various regions of the country. According to the article of China Economic Net, Pakistan has ideal conditions for Chilli/Pepper (Capsicum Annum L.) cultivation. Pakistan is amongst the top ten chilli producing nations which enjoy a combination of warm, humid yet dry weather and a well-drained sandy loam with rich organic content. However, Pakistan’s chilli production has been lower than the world average for the same period since 2015. From FY2014–15 to FY2017-18, the average annual production of chilli in Pakistan was around 143,428 tonnes, but it plummeted to 126,943 tonnes in FY2018-19, accounting for 85.7 per cent its peak in FY2017-18 of 148,114 tonnes.

In Pakistan, Sindh province is the major producer of chilli followed by Punjab and Balochistan. The major constraints in production faced by chilli farmers here are lack of modern irrigation system, imbalance use of fertiliser and pesticide, and lack of training. “Pakistan has to adopt modern technology to increase its production,” recommended Zahid Gishkori, a Special Investigative Correspondent in Pakistan.  Growers are troubled by some marketing issues, including unreasonable commission agent charges, improper weighing, price fluctuations and lack of proper storage facilities. Pepper growers are unable to make a proper profit from chilli due to marketing channel barriers. Talking to China Economic Net, Khurum Javed Maqbool, Director Marketing of Fatima AG Solutions Limited, Pakistan, pointed out that at present the whole ecosystem in Pakistan is inefficient. “From harvesting to sewing and storing of the crop and then selling it and then farmers getting financing and then the returns for their produce… All these operations require improvement.”

In July, a pilot Chilli farm project under the cooperation between Pakistani farmers and their Chinese partners – CMEC Sichuan Litong Food Group – began to bear fruit, with a yield around 3 times Pakistani varieties. Chen Changwei, Chairman of Sichuan Litong Food Group, China, noted that their pilot Chilli farm project successfully completed 100 acres of plantation in the first half of 2021 in Lahore. For the 100-acre-pilot-project, the quantities of seeds are 380 grams per acre, with a yield reaching 3 tonnes per acre. The total production is expected to reach 300 tonnes. While as per Ministry of National Food Security Research (Economic Wing), chilli is grown on 47,349 hectares in Pakistan with a crop yield of about 2.68 tonnes per hectare (1.072 tonnes per acre) and an annual production of around 126,943 tonnes in FY2018-19. As per Chen, they brought a total of 13 varieties of Chinese chillies to Pakistan since 2019. It took them three years to conduct the pilot programme, and of all these 13 varieties, two varieties, namely, PJH-302 and PJH-407, have been certified for cultivation in Pakistan. “Seed is the basic input for agriculture sector and has imperative role in enhancing agriculture productivity, food security and poverty alleviation,” said YEAR BOOK 2019-20 released by Ministry of National Food Security and Research (NFSR), Pakistan.  In the next phase of the pilot Chilli farm project, as many as 3000 acres of land would be brought under chilli cultivation. Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Nong Rong praised the chilli farming project, saying that the project is expected to produce more than 8,000 tonnes of dried chillies with a net income of more than Rs. 100,000 per acre for local farmers. Chen Changwei noted that in Pakistan, “we can complete two seasons of planting as long as we avoid high temperatures from mid-June to August.” “Our ultimate goal is to cooperate with our Pakistani friends on 200, 000 acres of land here,” Chen Changwei said determinedly. Wu Guang and Chen Changwei further shared with the reporter their three-step strategy. Chen noted that in the first phase of Chilli Contract Farming Project, China-Pakistan Agricultural Cooperation Pilot Zone is to be set up in five years, forming an industrial belt from areas around Faisalabad, Multan, KP and Lahore.

The second step is processing. A chilli processing plant will be established in Pakistan within three years to extract chilli pigment and chilli essence, with an industrial output value of $ 200 million. While in the third phase, a China-Pakistan food industrial park would be established in 5 to 10 years to help Pakistan boost processed chilli exports in days to come. Wu explained, chilli is only the beginning and they are to plant more crops like garlic in Pakistan in days to come, so as to form a complete industrial chain to deep process raw material close by.

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