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CIMMYT maize varieties in high demand in Pakistan

AbduRahman Beshir and M. Imtiaz

Pakistan imports more than 85% of its hybrid maize seed, which costs the country about US$ 60 million each year. Due to importation and other factors, the price of hybrid maize seed ranges from US$ 6-8 per kg, the highest in south Asia.

During a NARC-CIMMYT maize field day held on 25 November 2015, Muhammad Azeem Khan, Director General of Pakistan’s National Agricultural Research Center (NARC), said, “We are seeing valuable and precious contributions from the AIP [Agricultural Innovation Program] maize program which will help to lessen the dependency on imported hybrid maize seeds.” In his welcoming address to about 200 participants, the NARC DG mentioned the importance of reopening the CIMMYT office and reviving its activities after a gap of more than two decades.

CIMMYT’s maize activities in Pakistan are being implemented more widely under the recently launched AIP. M. Imtiaz, CIMMYT’s Country Representative and AIP project leader, welcomed the delegates and urged stakeholders to make an all-out effort to deliver maize varieties and hybrids particularly to resource-poor farmers.

Seerat Asghar, Federal Secretary for National Food Security and Research, reminded participants about the role CIMMYT played in helping Pakistan to become self-sufficient in wheat, and described the collaboration between Norman Borlaug and Pakistani scientists. He stressed that this type of collaboration must continue in order to achieve similar results in maize. The Federal Secretary also highlighted AIP’s maize activities, which have introduced a wide range of maize germplasm to Pakistan including vitamin A enriched, biofortified maize hybrids and stem borer resistant open-pollinated varieties (OPVs), among others.

Under the AIP maize program, which started its field evaluation work in February 2014, CIMMYT has evaluated about 100 set of trials consisting of more than 1000 maize hybrids and OPVs in all provinces and regions of Pakistan. In less than two years, the national agricultural research system has identified about 50 hybrids and OPVs suitable for further validation and commercial production. “Pakistan can be taken as CIMMYT’s new frontier for maize where positive impacts can be achieved sustainably,” said AbduRahman Beshir, CIMMYT’s maize improvement and seed systems specialist. “Such fast results are not happening inadvertently; rather, they are creating strong collaborations, and developing confidence and trust in national partners will result in meeting set targets effectively.”

AIP maize is a multi-stakeholder platform consisting of 20 public and private partners who are directly involved in Pakistan’s maize evaluation and validation network. The number of stakeholders is expected to increase as the program further expands product testing and deployment in different parts of the country. During the field visit, Umar Sardar, R&D manager at Four Brothers Seed Company, noted the performance of different maize hybrids and expressed his company’s interest in marketing white kernel varieties in KPK provinces. Similarly, Jan Masood, Director of the Cereal Crops Research Institute (CCRI), asked CIMMYT to allocate some of the entries for the benefit particularly of small-scale farmers in the mountain areas of Pakistan.

During the field day, CIMMYT principles for allocating products to partners were also announced. Ten private and public institutions have submitted applications to CIMMYT’s Global Maize Program to obtain CIMMYT maize germplasm for further validation and commercialization in Pakistan; those requests are now being reviewed by a panel of maize experts working with CIMMYT in Asia.

After visiting demonstration plots and trials, the chief guest, Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Sikandar Hayat Khan Bosan applauded CIMMYT’s efforts to foster the production and delivery of affordable quality seed. In his concluding remarks, the Minister said, “The country is importing a huge amount of hybrid maize seed, which contributes to the high input price for maize farmers, particularly those with limited resources. We need to strengthen our local capacity especially in hybrid maize seed production in order to enhance availability, accessibility, and affordability of quality seeds to our farmers.” Minister Bosan also noted the role of PARC, CIMMYT, and USAID under AIP.

PARC Chairman Nadeem Amjad expressed his gratitude to all the stakeholders and organizers of this national event. Former PARC Chairman Iftikhar Ahmad and Shahid Masood, former member of PARC’s plant science division, received awards from the chief guest in recognition of their contributions under the AIP program.

Representatives of local and multinational seed companies, public research institutes, relevant government institutions, and USAID, as well as progressive farmers and policymakers attended the field day.

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