You ViewsVolume 13 Issue # 13

Tobacco as bioenergy

KHYBER PAKHTUNKHWA produces about 77 per cent of all tobacco leaf grown in Pakistan. The province also produces nearly all of Pakistan’s flue-cured Virginia (FCV) and light air-cured (Burley) tobacco types.

Pakistan is now the seventh largest producer of FCV tobacco in the world. One acre of tobacco can yield up to 80 wet tonnes of biomass. All the byproducts, including sugars, oils and proteins, can be used in products ranging from biofuel and animal feed to soil amendments (nutrients added to improve soil).

Tobacco is grown in Pakistan on around 0.25pc of total irrigated land. The crop plays an important role in the country’s economy by generating income and employment through its farming, manufacturing, distribution and retail.

The earning from export proceeds of tobacco and its products fell to Rs1.52bn in 2014-15 from Rs2.33bn in the year 2009-10, a decline of 35pc. This fall showcases structural and policy issues prevalent in the sector.

Data compiled by the Pakistan Tobacco Board shows a workforce of 350,000, directly and indirectly employed within the tobacco industry.

The sector generates an annual income of around Rs300bn and is a source of livelihood for 1.2m people.

Official data shows that Pakistan exported 4.27m kg of tobacco to 21 countries in 2014-15 against 6.67m kg in the previous year, a decline of 36pc. The decline was also seen in exports of cigarettes which fell to 30.41m in 2014-15 from 83.96m in the previous year, a decline of 64pc. Vast and sincere efforts are needed to exploit such hidden agricultural boom.

Pakistan may produce enormous quantity of biofuel to curtail the fuel shortage .

Ghulam Sarwar Soomro