An oil palm plantation. Image Credit: Reuters

Karachi: The Sindh government has decided to reserve 3,000 acres of forest land in Thatta District near the coastal belt of the province for the plantation of oil palm trees.

The decision to this effect was reached at the meeting of Sindh Cabinet chaired by Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah.

The cabinet meeting was informed that the indigenous production of the edible oil would be highly beneficial for the economy of the country. Every year Pakistan spends $3.150 billion to import 4.50 million tonnes of edible oil for its cooking needs. Bringing palm oil from the Southeast Asian countries is the second highest expense for the Pakistani economy after the import of petroleum products.

The Sindh Coastal Development Authority (SCDA) will carry out the oil palm harvesting.

The forest land of Khathore and Hayat Gaho in Ghorabari area of Thatta District will be used for growing palm oil trees. The cabinet on the request of Sindh Law and Environment Adviser Barrister Murtaza Wahab decided to hand over 3,000 tonnes of forest land to SCDA for the purpose.

Wahab informed the cabinet that the SCDA, for the first time in Pakistan, had earlier successfully completed pilot project of oil palm plantation and also establishing a mini mill to extract the palm oil near the plantation site.

The palm oil extraction mill, having capacity to produce two tonnes of edible oil daily, started functioning in November 2020 in Ghulamullah Town of Thatta. The mill was imported from China.

The SCDA as a part of the pilot project grew 1,100 oil plam trees on 50 acres land in Khathore Forest.

Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto had envisioned the idea of using the coastal belt of Sindh for oil palm tree cultivation. The oil palm plantation and indigenous extraction of edible oil will create job opportunities for the natives of the Thatta District.