Breakthrough project in Sindh turns Pakistan into palm oil producing country

The site of a pilot oil palm plantation in Sindh's Thatta district on July 24, 2020. (Photo courtesy: Sindh's Environment, Climate Change and Coastal Development)
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Updated 30 November 2020

Breakthrough project in Sindh turns Pakistan into palm oil producing country

  • Oil content of palm fruit from Sindh's plantation in Thatta is 2 percent higher than the world average
  • Pakistan consumes 4.5 million tons of edible oil a year, of which some 90 percent is imported, mainly from Malaysia and Indonesia

KARACHI: Pakistan’s southeastern Sindh province has successfully completed a pilot oil palm cultivation and extraction project, putting the country on the list of palm oil producers. 
An oil extraction facility at the site of the pilot oil palm plantation in the province’s southern Thatta district produced its first oil last week. The development is seen as a breakthrough for the South Asian nation which is heavily dependent on palm oil imports.

“The palm oil extraction is being done as a test run at the moment and the results are wonderful and very encouraging,” Muhammad Aslam Ghouri, secretary of Sindh’s Environment, Climate Change and Coastal Development which is running the project, told Arab News on Friday.

The Rs25 million ($157,000) pilot project started in 2016 on 50 acres of coastal land. 

“In 2016, Malaysian experts came here and they studied everything including soil and environment and they certified that the fruit is very good,” Ghouri said. “The oil content of the palm fruit is 2 percent higher than the world average.” 




Machinery for oil extraction is being installed at the site of the oil palm project in Thatta, Sindh, on July 24, 2020. (Photo courtesy: Sindh's Environment, Climate Change and Coastal Development)

The yield from the fertile soil is also encouraging as even 60 palm trees can be grown on each acre.

Pakistan consumes around 4.5 million tons of edible oil a year, of which some 90 percent is imported, mainly from Malaysia and Indonesia — the world’s biggest producers of the commodity.

While the Thatta oil extraction facility can produce only up to two tons of oil a day, Ghouri believes the reliance on imports can be greatly reduced if the Sindh project is expanded.

Seeing the project as a “game changer” for the province and country, the Sindh government has already allocated an additional 1,600 acres for palm cultivation, which it further plans to expand to 3,000 acres. 

Ghouri said that ECC&CD has already invited farmers and private firms to show the “success story” and encourage them to invest and join the industry.
“Seeing the success of this pilot project we can safely say that in future when there is investment in this sector, private parties come in to start palm plantation and invest in oil extraction mills as we have shown that it can be done. Then this (less reliance on imports) can happen.”




An oil palm from Sindh's plantation in Thatta on July 24, 2020. The oil content of the plantation's palm fruit is 2 percent higher than the world average. (Photo courtesy: Sindh's Environment, Climate Change and Coastal Development)

Oil traders, however, say that there is a long way ahead before Pakistan will be able to offset the imports of the staple commodity. 
“It is a step in the right direction that has a potential to substitute palm oil imports and save foreign exchange, but it would take time to make any meaningful contribution as the country imports on an average 100,000 tons of palm oil per month,” Ismail Wali, an oil trader at Jodia Bazaar in Karachi, told Arab News.
Farmers are less enthusiastic as they remember a similar initiative being undertaken in 1996 to develop the country’s vast coastal belt into an oil palm cultivation hub. For two decades the project was neglected, causing huge losses. 
“We had imported expensive samplings of palm and planted over an area of 400 acres in Mirpur Sakro, Thatta district,” Mumrez Khan, a former oil palm farmer, told Arab News.

“We had to abandon the plantation in 2009 due to lack of support and required guidance from the government.” 


Pakistani online marketplace raises $6.5 mln seed round, second largest in MENA

Updated 19 January 2021

Pakistani online marketplace raises $6.5 mln seed round, second largest in MENA

  • The round was co-led by Global Founders Capital and Indus Valley Capital
  • Saudi’s Derayah Ventures has also invested in Bazaar which connects retailers to wholesalers and manufacturers

ISLAMABAD: Bazaar, a Pakistani online marketplace that connects retailers directly to wholesalers and manufacturers, has raised a $6.5 million seed round, the second largest ever in the Middle East and North Africa region and the largest in Pakistan, one of the venture capital firms that invested in the project said on Tuesday. 
Last year, Bazaar raised $1.3 million in Pakistan’s largest ever pre-seed round. Co-founded by Saad Jangda and Hamza Jawaid in April 2020, Bazaar started a closed pilot in Karachi during extreme lockdown conditions because of the coronavirus pandemic when shorter working hours created major supply chain problems for retailers. 
“Congrats to @joinbazaar on raising a $6.5M seed round, the second largest ever in MENA and largest in Pakistan, co-led by @Global_Founders founder and @indusvalleycap,” Aatif Awan, the founder of Indus Valley Capital, said on Twitter. “Couldn’t be more thrilled to partner with them as they revolutionize the $150B retail industry in Pakistan.”


“Magic happens when smart ambitious founders take on huge markets. In just 8 months, Bazaar has built an incredible team and product, serving more than 10 thousand retailers every month.”
Awan, former VP of growth at LinkedIn, said when his firm first invested in Bazaar in May last year, they set ambitious targets for 2020. “They went on to crush those goals by 10x!” he added. 
He said it was exciting that so many investors had invested in Pakistan for the first time through the Bazaar deal, including early-stage VC S7V, Singapore-based Wavemaker Partners, Saudi Arabia’s Derayah Ventures and US-based NextBillion Ventures. 

“Bringing the fragmented B2B retail market online is one of the biggest startup opportunities in Pakistan. I have tracked it for over a year and have been waiting to back the right team to go after it,” Awan said in an interview last year. “Bazaar’s founding team is phenomenal on all fronts – product, strategy and execution. Indus Valley Capital is really excited to partner with them.”