ISLAMABAD: Alongside wheat, potato and cotton, the high production cost of rice is hampering its sales in the international market, despite the presence of hefty stocks in the country.
At present, exporters and growers have five million tons of basmati rice and a similar quantity of Irri-6 rice, but they are finding it difficult to sell the commodity in the global market because of sluggish demand and comparatively higher price for Pakistani rice.
The price of Pakistani rice is higher than the paddy produced by India and other regional countries.
The Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP) held a meeting with officials of the Ministry of National Food Security and Research in Islamabad and demanded steps for reducing the cost of production or introduction of high-quality seeds to increase the productivity.
A senior official in the ministry told The Express Tribune that after the meeting the ministry wrote to provinces asking them to take appropriate measures. It also told chief secretaries of the provinces to facilitate the growers in bringing the cost down in the larger interest of farmers, consumers and exporters.
“The price of Pakistani basmati is higher by at least $100 to $150 compared to Indian basmati, and that is a big hurdle in the way of exports,” said REAP member Malik Jahangir, who also attended the meeting.
“Since 1997, no new basmati seed has come to the market and that’s the reason for the low yield per acre, which has pushed rice prices higher,” he said.
India, on the contrary, has introduced five new seed varieties in the last 10 years and that has helped a lot in increasing the yield.
“Another step the government could take is to subsidise rice exports so that the stock could be disposed of,” Jahangir suggested.
“If we fail to export the existing stock, then next year the farmers will not grow the grain, which might spark a crisis,” he warned, saying they had also written to the Rice Research Centre, Kala Shah Kaku Lahore, but no appropriate response had been received so far.
He pointed out that after the devolution of agriculture ministry to the provinces, confusion emerged about the policy issues. Provinces were not taking responsibility of resolving the issues being faced by the growers and traders despite taking assets and resources of the devolved ministry, he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 13th, 2015.