ISLAMABAD: Government authorities should fix and maintain rice prices in the country by establishing a ‘rice board’, said the Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP).
REAP members said the absence of an effective rice board was creating problems for exporters and growers, and like other cash crops, around 6 million tons of rice is lying with growers and cannot be exported due to high prices in the international market.
“There are numerous problems faced by exporters to fix the rice price in the market as per their quality, out of which the absence of a relevant forum is a major one,” said REAP Chairman Rafique Sulaiman, adding that a board is necessary for growers and exporters to sit together and settle issues.
He said REAP had forwarded a proposal to the government for constituting the board but there has not been any headway so far.
Sulaiman said growers do not disclose the exact cost of production, particularly pertaining to the cost of production in the heads of land rent and contracts given to the third party.
He said the growers also do not disclose the quantity of the stock and tend to manipulate in a situation when it’s time for any subsidy or incentive. “They whine for low prices and high cost when the price of basmati rice is Rs65 and there is the same hue and cry when the price is Rs150.
“Most decisions taken by the government cannot be implemented due to the lack of coordination among stakeholders,” said a senior government officer in the Ministry of National Food Security and Research. “One such example is the ECC decision of 2014 when it decided to give Rs5,000 as compensation per acre to small rice growers on the directives of the Prime Minister, but it could not be implemented due to non-distinction between growers of basmati and other rice varieties.
The ECC had also decided that the total amount of compensation may be shared equally between the federal and provincial governments. The compensation was to be made only to the smaller growers of 25 acres only.
Farmers who had already received compensation against crop damage in recent floods in Punjab were not eligible for this additional compensation.
The officer held the provincial governments of Sindh and Punjab responsible for taking least interest in differentiating the small and big growers and it resulted in failure of implementation of the package.
Besides, Sulaiman also urged that government must take up the issue with China to import at least one million tons of our rice as it has started importing rice from Thailand.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2015.
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