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Aziz Khan, SAP: “There is also room for investment in technology”

14 October 20169 min reading

“No investment in technology is ever sufficient because technology evolves and in the 21st century it is evolving at an unprecedent levels known to mankind before, therefore there is also room for improvement and investment in technological sector, this holds true to Pakistan and every country on the globe.”

This month we have Aziz Khan, Secretary General of Seed Association of Pakistan here in Miller Magazine. Seed Association of Pakistan (SAP) has approximately 200 member seed companies across the country. Planning to organize international events in Pakistan to show the potential of seed industry and agricultural prospects of Pakistan, SAP also coordinates with Federal and Provincial Governments in projects where FAO and World Bank are also involved. Answering our questions about the seed production industry in Pakistan, technological infrastructure of the industry and future projects of the Association, Aziz Khan states that Private Seed Industry in Pakistan currently produces in excess of 70% of the certified seed produced in Pakistan and is primed for incorporation of latest technological advancements in the seed business through projects and programs with local or foreign associations and companies. We take the details from Mr. Khan.

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Mr. Salman Aziz Khan, firstly could you please give us some information about SAP (Seed Association of Pakistan)? When was your association founded? What can you say about your mission, aims and services you give to your members? Firstly, thank you for providing me the opportunity to share information about SAP. Seed Association of Pakistan was established in 2010 to provide a platform for private seed industry to not only protect the interests of the industry but also act as a bridge between the Government and framers. The Association has approximately 200 member seed companies from across the various regions of the country therefore we can safely say that the Association is true respresentative of the country’s seed industry. The Association is also member of International Seed Federation (ISF), the Asia & Pacific Seed Association (APSA) and ECOSA. We actively participates in major international events related to the industry.

The Association's objectives are to actively protect the interets of the industry and to provide services and professional development programs relating to development and research on production of improved quality seeds and educate farmers on importance of quality seed. Additional objectives include coordination with Government's organizations related to sale, processing and distribution of seed, providing information to the members about research developments, market trends, legislations and regulations that can affect seed business and its profitability and to provide a forum for sharing ideas, information, opinion and concerns with international organizations and research institutions and professionals having mutual interests.

From which sectors are your association members and to what extent do the members of your association represent the industry that you belong? Seed Association of Pakistan’s have members from diversed sectors. These include cotton, wheat, rice, rice hybrid, corn hybrid and vegetable seed.

Could you please give us some information about Pakistan’s seed production and handling system? How is the current situation and development of the seed sector in Pakistan? Pakistan is currently going through revolutionary phase that will put it on level terms with international standards.The Government of Pakistan recently passed the Seed Amendment Act 2015 which officially recognizes the Private Seed Industry in Pakistan and Seed Association of Pakistan as its official representative. The Seed Act also allows the private seed industry to establish research and seed testing facilitlies and SAP is actively working on setting up an Acredited Seed Testing Laboratory. Moreover GMO seed reserch is permitted however the seed has to be approved by the National Bio-Safety Committee. Furthermore the Plant Breeders’s Rights Bill is also on the floor of the National Assembly of Pakistan for legislative debate.

How many companies are producing seed in your country? What kind of products they produce mainly? There are about 300-350 seed companies actively doing businees in Pakistan. Two third of these companies are member of SAP because of the Association’s stringent criteria to ensure production and processing of certified quality seed. Cotton, wheat, rice, rice hybrid, corn hybrid and vegetable seed are the primary products, although some oil seed is also producded.

What is the level of technological infrastructure of seed producers in Pakistan? Can you say that there is a sufficient invesment for advanced technologies? How is the development and transformation? Pakistan has an established technological infrastructure in both public and private sectors. The public sector however contributes more the development and research using Government funded technological facilities to produce new varities in Pakistan. Furthermore GMO research is also being carried out in Pakistan but the varities need to be approved by the National Bio Safety Committee.

With regards to your question regarding sufficient investment for advanced technologies, I can safely say that no investment in technology is ever sufficient because technology evolves and in the 21st century it is evolving at an unprecedent levels known to mankind before therefore there is also room for improvement and investment in technological sector, this holds true to Pakistan and every country on the globe.

Only recently Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC) experts stressed upon enhancing knowledge sharing initiatives to improve strategies and future opportunities for seed development. To strengthen national food security, Pakistan will have to adopt ever evolving modern agricultural technologies, especially in terms of seed development and farming.

Is Pakistan manufactures adequate amount of grain products such as wheat, rice and corn for the country itself? Could you please give us the amount of production and consumption, and some information about export and import of grain products? Pakistan is a major producer of grain products in the world. Wheat production is estimated at 25.5 million tons for the current season. The total cultivated area is approximately 9.3 million hectares. Wheat is Pakistan’s dietary staple and 97 percent of the produce will be used for planting and human consumption.

Pakistan is the 4th largest rice producing country and annual produced in excess of 6 million tons. Combined with the South Asian production the region produces 30% of world’s paddy rice output. About 40-45% of rice produced is locally consued and the rest is exported.

Corn is the fourth largest major crop in Pakistan. Corn is cultivated on over one million hectre and production annually amounts to 3.5 million tons. Poultry industry is the main buyer of corn, utilizing almost 65 percent of the production in poultry feed. Wet milling consumes about 15 percent and 10 percent is used to make dairy feed concentrate while the remaining production is used for human consumption in the form of bread made from the flour and also for seed purposes.

As Pakistan, to which level do you want to reach in seed producing? If you have any projects or problems that you face, can you please share them with us? Of course, Pakistan aspire to be internationally recognized as quality seed producer and SAP is focusing on pariticpating in the OECD Seed Schemes at some stage. During recent meetings with ISF, SAP explored the possibility of a mutual training and research program from Pakistani seed producers and farmers. This can be further expanded to ISTA, FAO and World Food Programe. Also SAP enjoys good relationships with various international national seed asssociations especially Turkey and plans future mutually beneficial projects that will help enhance seed production and technology deployment in all areas of the industry.

Financial constraints are always there for developing countries such as Pakistan but with planned approach SAP intends to overcome them. Government of Pakistan is also willing to provide full backing the Association. SAP is also planning to organize international events in Pakistan so that the international market can get a better exposure to the potential of our seed industry and agricultural prospects.

You have some projects with Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Bank. Could you please talk about their support to your organisation and their contributions to the development of your industry? Currently SAP does not have projects directly involving FAO and the World Bank, but SAP do coordinate with Federal and Provincial Governments in projects where FAO and World Bank are also involved. FAO and World Bank are definetly playing a major role in Pakistan. FAO's currently priority wise projects are 1) support to the National Zero Hunger Action Plan for Enhanced Food and Nutrition Security, 2) support to Pakistan New Growth Strategy through Sustainable Agricultural Economic Growth, 3) Disaster Risk Reduction and Emergency Response and 4) Capacity Development for Agriculture Sector under Devolution. Likewise World Bank also has multiple projects in Pakistan related to Agiruclture Sector.

Finally, what would you like to add about your association and seed industry in Pakistan? Well, to be honest, it has only been 5 years and our Association is still in its early years of development but nonetheless has achieved major milestones over the past few years, amongst them are 1) the succesful role to defend the interests of the industry in the new Seed Act, 2) membership of International Associations and cooperaiton with Seed Associations of various countries and 3) establishment of Pakistan Seed Congress.

Our primary focus over the next few years is to ensure that Plant Breeders’s Rights Bill is passed by the Government so the Association can rope in much needed foreign investment and expertise in terms of management and technological input. SAP has already started working on estasblishing the first International Standard Accredited Seed Testing Laboratory through a public and private partnership. We also plan to develop programs for capacity building of the seed companies and farmers and develop better storage facilities with for the seed companies. SAP has already initiated a program to engage the Academic Sector for research in better seed production, processing and storage.

In the end I must conclude by saying that Association and the seed industry in Pakistan has seen exponential growth in private sector which only got recognition as an industry in 1994. Private Seed Industry in Pakistan currently produces in excess of 70% of the certified seed produced in Pakistan and is primed for incorporation of latest technological advancements in the seed business through projects and programs with local and preferably foreign Associations and companies and look forward to engaging with that at the IDMA in Istanbul in 2017.

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