Sunflower, an Additional Source For Cooking Oil.

Helianthus annuus, or the common Sunflower
Helianthus annuus, or the common Sunflower

21 May 2017: During the 2016-17 financial year based on the 11 Five Year Plan, Sarpang Dzongkhag had a target of initiating sunflower production. With the awareness on the viability of the high oil content seeds the Hon’ble Minister of Agriculture and Forests, Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji, visited the Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute (BARI) coinciding with the SAARC-Agriculture Ministerial Meeting in Dhaka in 2016.

The Dzongkhag Agriculture sector requested the National Oilcrop Commodity Programme (NOCP) under the Department of Agriculture, Thimphu to support sourcing the seed in collaboration with SAARC-Agriculture Centre and the Royal Bhutan Embassy, Dhaka.

Accordingly the Agriculture sector received 150 kgs of seeds in Mid September 2016 from the NOCP, Thimphu. The BARI Shurjomukhia-2 was the variety which has the characteristic of having high oil content unlike other sunflower available in Bhutan. The Agriculture sector acknowledges the supports given by the NOCP, SAARC-Agriculture Centre and the Royal Bhutanese Embassy.

As soon as the Agriculture sector received the seed from the Bangladesh through NOCP, the sector distributed the seeds to the concerned gewogs for the production with the technical supports by the gewog extension staffs and the Dzongkhag Agriculture sector. The Dzongkhag had also issued the seed to Agriculture Research and Development Centre, Samteling for production and maintain the seeds.

The farmers started cultivating sunflower from October and harvested by February and March for this winter season and some have still in the field. The overall production recorded was 849.7 kgs from 11.3 acres as yet.

Although the average yield recorded from an acre was not very encouraging due to water shortage, poor management skill, late sowing for the current winter season and many other reasons. But, the yield can be increased through improved management practices based on the present experiences and compare with the production in next season as well as with the production of other sunflower producing Dzongkhag.helianthus2

Though the yield was very low but looking at the oil recovery shows encouraging. On this, looking at the oil recovery from five kilogram of each had recorded 2.3litres from sunflower and 1.9litres of oil from Mustard. In an average the oil content of sunflower is 0.4litres more than the mustard oil which shows most potential to increase the production compared from existing sunflower seeds in Bhutan. Moreover, both have good amount of byproduct (Oil cake) which can be used for supplementary cattle feed. The oil recovery of local sunflower is not yet done due to not having seeds.

The farmers seem to be very happy with the production harvested and were easier to cultivate compared to mustard. The crop is not damaged by the domestic animals except the damage by birds during ripening. Intercropping sunflower with maize was found advantage which protects from lodging and wind damage. Thrashing was not very difficult and felt that they can even cultivate twice in a year. Farmers want to increase sunflower cultivation this coming season knowing high oil recovery, the health benefits of the sunflower oil and good production compared from mustard.

To promote and increase the production, there is need to enhance the extension staff and farmer’s capacity on improved agronomic practices of sunflower cultivation through trainings and other possible means. The value addition of oil such as refining facilities should also be promoted.

With the supports for sunflower production is going to help the farmers with oil for self-consumption and also the surplus can be marketed to generate income for their livelihood.  In general this will contribute balancing the economy and the trade by reducing the import of eatable oil from India and nearby countries.

– By Madhu Devi Baniya and Domang,
Royal Bhutanese Embassy

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