KARACHI: Netherland-based Zilt Proefbedrijf has expressed intentions to establish a joint venture in the agriculture sector to tap the market for salt-tolerant plant species in Pakistan, an official at Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) said.
Referring to a meeting of Commerce Ministry officials with Zilt Proefbedrijf in Hague last month, the official said the Dutch were meeting with the relevant authorities to explore the opportunities in this regard. “The meeting also discussed development of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and GSP plus status.”
For ten years, Zilt Proefbedrijf has been researching the salt tolerance of existing, conventional agricultural crops, which could provide food in saline areas. The project offers Netherlands the opportunity to not only be the forerunner in research into saline cultivation, but also to take a global position in the actual development and marketing of new salt-tolerant plant varieties.
“With this, we also want to contribute to the world food issue. Interest has been shown in all parts of the world for our trials,” the website of Zilt notes. The official said Zilt was willing to explore investment opportunities in developing and marketing salt tolerant plat varieties.
According to experts, keeping in view the increasing scarcity of freshwater in the world, there is a dire need to focus on nature-based solutions to help tackle the challenges posed by food insecurity. Halophytes, for instance, offer great opportunity to utilise unused salty water and saline land and grow crops for food and animal fodder.
Salt and water in the soil render nearly a third of Pakistan’s cultivable land unproductive. It’s a big problem for a country with a large agrarian economy. To be precise, of the 20.8m hectares of cultivable land in the country, 5.33m hectares were affected by salinity and 1.55m hectares by water logging (the saturation of soil with water), according to a study by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
The annual cost of crop losses from the problem has been estimated at between Rs15 billion and Rs55 billion. The FAO study says that the reforestation of salt-affected soils is possible with the help of proper site preparation, choice of species and the development of nursery and planting techniques.
(This news/article originally appeared in The News on November 6th, 2018)