Rice sector woes: Stock shortage, lack of interest to hamper rice exporters

Super Basmati variety could see ‘crisis situation’, says official

Shahram Haq November 11, 2016
Farmers have been asking the government to subsidise the agriculture sector by cutting sales tax on inputs and slashing power tariff for tube wells. PHOTO: APP

LAHORE: Pakistan’s rice exports could see a further dip in the coming years as lack of interest from growers, and almost zero carry-forward stocks, especially in Super Basmati variety, could create trouble for exporters in meeting international orders, said different farmer lobbies.

Additionally, the lack of interest from government institutions to market Pakistani rice and find new markets are creating issues for stakeholders, associated with this crop, they added.

“Super Basmati variety this year could see a crisis-like situation, as all existing stocks have already been sold to Iran last year,” Faisal Cheema, chairman of the Rice Mill Association, told The Express Tribune.

The worst scenario growers faced over the last couple of years was discouraging for them, as there were abundant rice stocks available but no one was there to purchase them. This year many growers were not interested in sowing the crop, he added.

Rice is the second biggest commodity generating export revenue after textiles. Pakistan exported $1.86 billion worth of rice in 2015-16, down 8.6% year-on-year when it crossed $2 billion.

Pakistan can produce around 6.9 million tons of paddy annually, out of which 3.4 metric tons of rice is produced in Punjab, 2.8 million tons in Sindh, 0.6 million tons in Balu, Balochistan and 0.1 million tons in K-P.

Pakistan’s local rice consumption stands at 2.6 million tons annually.

The government for the next year has set a rice production target of 6.9 million tons, up from 2.8 million; however, lobbies claim that the final production could be in between 6 million to 6.5 million tons with a dominant share of coarse variety.

Rice production, according to the Economic Survey of Pakistan, has already witnessed a dip of 2.7% in 2015-16 with a 4.92% decline in production area.

However, exporters as well as agri experts believe that Pakistan could significantly increase rice production and export revenues with the same production area.

“Pakistan’s rice production could easily touch 8 million tons by adopting up-to-date technologies and curbing post-harvest loss,” said Agri Forum Pakistan chairman Ibrahim Mughal. Our production cost is almost 33% more than our neighbour India which produce around 85-90 million tons of rice annually, he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 12th, 2016.

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