People enjoy eating roasted peanuts when huddling under blankets during the winter months, but this year, that pleasure may come at a greater price because one of the less well-known cash crops has been struck by an increase in production costs and a climate cycle that is unfavorable to the producing zones.
Groundnuts, often known as peanuts, are a cash crop, which may surprise some people in urban areas, but its margins are on par with, if not larger than, those of sugarcane, potatoes, and corn. Surprisingly, no single crop provides comparable returns in Pothohar’s rain-fed regions. However, why are we discussing peanuts and any potential they may have? Short response? Huge.
Peanuts have come a long way in terms of distance and contribution to world food security and economic productivity since they first emerged in South American regions, specifically present-day Brazil, Peru, and Bolivia. The market is expected to grow to $107 billion by 2030 from its current worldwide size of over $87 billion. China is the world’s biggest producer of peanuts, followed by India, Nigeria, the United States, Indonesia, Argentina, Senegal, and Brazil.
Along with dominating production and exports, China and India account for more than 36% of the world’s demand for peanuts. The growing desire for ready-to-eat nut snacks, expanding export potential to Southeast Asia and Europe, increased demand for peanut oil in the pharmaceutical and personal care industries, and the growing popularity of protein-rich diets are all likely to drive the peanut oil market.
Along with dominating production and exports, China and India account for more than 36% of the world’s demand for peanuts. The market for peanuts is predicted to develop as export opportunities in Southeast Asia and Europe increase, ready-to-eat nut-based snacks become more popular, and demand for peanut oil in the personal care and pharmaceutical industries rises.
Because it is predominantly a leguminous crop, such as rice, sugarcane, and corn, it requires significantly less water because its root nodules can fix atmospheric nitrogen for it and it has deeper roots to fetch water. Additionally, given the current conditions, it fixes about 80% of the nitrogen needs from the environment on its own.
It can grow and adapt to a variety of soil types, from sandy, sandy loam to light loam with a pH of 7-8, as long as the ground is soft enough to allow the roots to go deeper without negatively impacting production. Simply put any soil that grows rice well may not be ideal for producing peanuts, even though the soil has many other benefits.
Pakistan’s production of peanuts increased dramatically over the last five years by 68 percent, reaching 144,000 tons in 2021–22 on an area of 0.37 million acres, largely as a result of farmers shifting their focus to high-yield crops in response to the country’s uncertain economic future.
Punjab alone accounts for nearly 95 percent of the national production followed by 4 percent from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and one percent from Sindh. In Punjab, nearly all of the production is concentrated around eight districts of Rawalpindi and Sargodha divisions where ample rainfed conditions and limited irrigation resources have driven it’s adoption. Although this year crop production is likely to be affected by rising temperatures and evolving rainfall patterns.
Peanut As An Oil Seed Crop:
You must be shocked to learn that Pakistan imports food for $8 billion, with edible oil accounting for approximately $4.5 billion of that total. Now let’s talk about peanuts before we go into the discussion of how and why Pakistan is an agricultural nation, how we got here, and why we don’t drill down some “common sense” in our policy-making circles.
Peanuts have a 40-50 percent high oleic mix, rich in unsaturated fatty acids, making them not only more storable but also lowering blood lipids. The government has been trying for decades to convince farmers to grow more canola and other Rabi oilseed crops. It even subsidized the inputs but the problem is those policies clash with the wheat support system so we need to get that straight and choose an avenue to yield some actual results.
Peanuts on the other hand are something that farmers already know and have been growing for decades and they just need proper motivation and the right regulatory support so they can contribute towards reducing Pakistan’s edible oil imports. There is no way we are moving forward without saving those dollars and putting them to some more productive use and development.
Pakistan is cooperating with China’s Shandong Rainbow Agriculture Institute on introducing cultivars with 75-80 percent oleic acid content and raising productivity. China is a great example to follow as it generates a nearly third (32 percent) of its edible oil needs from peanuts but these efforts need to be expedited at a mass scale on a priority basis as it’s without a doubt, one of the biggest economic challenges.