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Experts call for Pak-China cooperation in mulberry seeds

By Wang Kai | China Economic Net Mar 16, 2022
FAISALABAD, Mar. 16 (China Economic Net) - "Pakistan is importing silk worth 67 billion rupees. If we produce more silk in our country, it will provide employment to six hundred thousand people, most of whom will be of rural women", said Mr. Muhammad Farooq Bhatti, Deputy Director, Sericulture Punjab, Forest Department, Lahore in an interview with China Economic Net (CEN).
 
But lack of Mulberry trees has been restricting Pakistan to fully tap its potential. “In the 1990s, the area of mulberry trees shrank, leading to a decline of the sericulture industry, now we are trying to bring it back”, said Mr. Muhammad Farooq Bhatti.
 
Mulberries are one of the most popular fruits in Pakistan. Mulberry trees, fast-growing and small to medium-sized, are being cultivated in rural areas of Pakistan. Apart from wide presence in Punjab, they can also be found in KPK, Abottabad, and GB. Thanks to the hot climate, the growth period of mulberry trees in Pakistan is about 10 months, which means its leaves can be harvested several times within one year.
 
“I will say it is a fruit tree with no part going waste”, Mr. Malik Mohsin Abbas, Principal Scientist at the Horticulture Research Institute, Ayub Agriculture Research Institute, told CEN. Its leaves can be used as feed for silkworms, which provide silk for the textile sector; its branches are used to make different types of baskets that can be seen in almost every rural house of Pakistan. Its fruit is edible and can be processed into mulberry juice, powder, jam, vinegar, and tea. 
 
Fundamental to high-quality leaves and fruits are improved seeds. “Research on mulberry is very limited in Pakistan, but it has more potential”, Mr. Muhammad Farooq Bhatti said. 
 
“The techniques of seed cultivation can be commonly used. Most of our techniques can also be applied in Pakistan as long as local climate fits”, analysed Mr. Lin Tianbao, Director of Research Centre of Mulberry Breeding and Cultivation at the Sericultural Research Institute, Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences, China. 
 
Several improved mulberry varieties selected and bred by the research institute has proved to increase mulberry leaf output by around 30%. Up to now, two new series, namely, Nongsang and Qiangsang, have covered over 70% of China’s grafted mulberry fields. They were also provided to farmers, contributing to the country’s fight against poverty. 
 
The research center has had success story to tell regarding international cooperation in mulberry breeding and planting. Its mulberry saplings have been exported to Uzbekistan. By providing technical support such as breed selection and planting guidance to the Chinese companies cooperating with Uzbek government, the research center has provided a replicable model to follow. 
 
“This can also be applied in Pakistan as long as water resources suffice. For areas with inadequate water, we can grow seedlings in China when they are vulnerable and then graft them to Pakistan”, said Mr. Lin Tianbao.  
 
According to Mr. Muhammad Farooq Bhatti, Punjab is the area with most potential because around seventy percent of flora is found in Punjab. And in terms of population, Punjab can also play an important role in this industry. 
 
“Our target is to engage 1,000 families in this business in ongoing spring season”, said Mr. Muhammad Farooq Bhatti.  
 
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