Zardari seeks comprehensive edible oil policy

President Asif Ali Zardari on Friday asked the government to formulate a firm edible oil policy so as to eliminate dependence on imported oil as soon as possible.“The current edible oil import bill of $ 1.5 billion a year  is constantly rising making it critical for us to produce indigenous edible oil which will also generate thousands of new jobs and revitalise overall economic activity”, he observed.The President said this during an interactive session with other stakeholders, members of the Sindh Chamber of Agriculture and the Sindh Abadgar Board held in Bilawal House  here to brainstorm measures for rehabilitation of agriculture destroyed during  the floods.
The meeting was attended by Sindh Chief Minister  Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Federal Agriculture Minister Nazar Gondal, provincial ministers and senior government officials.
Briefing journalists, the spokesperson to the President Farhatullah Babar said the President also asked the government to prepare a package of incentives for the farmers to grow sunflower for indigenous production of edible oil.
The interactive meeting was informed that sunflower was the most important crop for edible oil extraction as its seed contained over 40 percent oil, having an early maturing quality, needing small quantities of irrigation water and is also drought resistant.
The meeting was informed that Kacha areas and uplands of irrigated areas can be vacated early for sowing rabi wheat crop.  However, in low lying irrigated areas which cannot be vacated early the sowing of sunflower was the best option.
President Zardari also advised to consider the proposal of giving interest free loan of Rs  ten thousand per acre to the worst hit farmers for a period of ten years. At the same time he asked the farmers to consider waiving the loans of haris to enable them  to return to their homes and work with peace of mind to rehabilitate the devastated agricultural landscape. He said that the haris had to be given incentives to return to the lands and asked the provincial government to hold meetings with landowners to address the issue in consultation with them.
The President asked the Federal Food and Agriculture Minister Nazar Muhammad Gondal to firm up strategy and plans for sunflower sowing in the province in consultation with Sindh Agriculture and Irrigation Ministers   and representatives of Abadgar, Sindh Chamber of agriculture and other  stake- holders. The Federal Agricultural Minister will stay in Karachi for a while to sort out  the issues.
President Asif Zardari also reiterated his call urging  the well to do and affluent people to play their role by paying a one-time surcharge for flood relief and rehabilitation efforts.