Wednesday April 24, 2024

Potato yields go over 10 percent under sustainable farming project

By Jawwad Rizvi
January 24, 2019

DIPALPUR: Modern practices adopted by the potatoes growers of Kasur district have increased per acre yield by

almost 10 to 20 percent, reduced the cost of production, and cut down the use of water by almost five percent compared to conventional framing techniques.

This happened through a Sustainable Farming Project (SFP) initiated by PepsiCo in the region in 2015.

The project enabled them to adopt advance technology for agriculture, helping them to earn more.

PepsiCo Pakistan Head of Agronomy Zahid Saleem said during a road show to sensitise the farmers about the achievements and to display the benefits modern techniques in potato growing.

A large number of farmers attached with the company’s network through contract were invited where past lessons of sustainable farming techniques were revised and future targets were explained.

The SFP is a global initiative launched by the company, where it engages with farmers from whom it sources directly, and provides education on field agronomy, fertilisers, irrigation, plant protection techniques and new technologies.

Zahid Saleem said with the adoption of modern techniques farmer productivity increased by up to 20 percent, while they were able to conserve up to five percent of water. However, there was still huge potential to reduce water consumption of potato crops, he said.

Explaining the future targets to the potato growers on its network, he said the company would not continue business with those partners who do not follow the SFP guidelines.

“Year 2019 is compliance year. All the guidelines given to the partners would be audited through third party international auditors during the year.

The company will continue business with those growers who will get a certain rating, as the company believes in returning to community instead of profit making only,” Saleem said.

Global best practices in sustainable farming were also showcased to the farmers on the field.

During the farm visits, two different plots were shown, one of which were cultivated through conventional practices and the other through modern techniques, including drip-irrigation and other methods

Farmers were told that three heavy frosts were witnessed by both plots. The crop cultivated via modern techniques sustained the frosts, whereas the one where conventional methods were used sustained adverse impacts.

Noor Ahmed, a grower linked with the company network said he fetched almost 25 percent higher return from the crop through better practices.

“We made one year agreement with the company well before the start of the crop season.

The company supplied the seeds and told about the farming practices, while a mutually decided price of the crop was also agreed. So there was no price war after the agreement,” he said.

Last year, he received Rs10/kg above the prevailing market rate last year.

Another farmer said potato growers were disturbed this year due to price crash, but they were protected from the cash due to the fixed price with the company.

PepsiCo Pakistan CFO Omar Yousaf said the quality of the crop was improved during the last five years.

He said the company never focused on the price strategy, and instead worked on long-term productivity.

Operational Manger Yasir Ghani said the company had just scratched the surface by SFP, and there was huge potential to reduce the cost of production and save water.

He said the company was the market leader in the salty snacks category, and procures 100 percent of the potatoes used in its Lay’s products in Pakistan from local farmers.

Additionally, the company also exports potato products produced from local crop to Afghanistan and Malaysia.