Pakistan: lack of govt. support leaves rice industry 'non-competitive

Karachi —Despite having a huge rice crop and export surplus Pakistan rice lagging behind due to gross negligence of this sector, said President UNISAME Zulfikar Thaver. It is very unfortunate that rice industry which is ranked as the second biggest after textiles is left mercilessly neglected. Regardless of the fact that it employs huge number of entrepreneurs from farm land to factories. The SME rice farmers, millers, processors, traders and exporters are in turmoil due to the step motherly treatment of the government. The cost of production has gone high and this has made the rice industry
The farm inputs have become costly. The only answer to survival is value addition, quality bench mark and entering non traditional markets. Thaver urged the ministries of agriculture, commerce, industry and science and technology to co-ordinate with one another for the uplift of the rice sector. UNISAME after carrying out a study of the requirements for the uplift of the sector stated that dedicated efforts are required from grass root level from modernization of farming, milling, processing, packing and marketing. The union called upon the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority (SMEDA) under the ministry of industries and the Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (PCSIR) under the ministry of science and technology to join hands for modernization of the rice industry.
It also requested SMEDA and PCSIR to take up the issues of paddy drying, parboiling, steaming and preparation of iron and vitaminized rice and also pre-cooked rice. Various products can be made from rice flour and rice grains if PCSIR could educate the sector on increasing shelf life of the products. PCSIR is capable of doing great work for the sector Thaver said. The Rice Research Institute under the ministry of agriculture also needs to do more and developed new varieties. We have only a handful of varieties whereas our neighbour India has many and we need to compete in the global markets. The ministry of commerce needs to intervene in the basmati Geographical Indication (GI) matter and also the basmati trade mark issue and resolve the matter with the Intellectual Property Organization and the Registrar of Trade Marks in national interest.
Another very important aspect is the marketing, we have lost the markets of Iran, Gulf and Middle East. Although we have never really entered Europe and USA, there is scope as our super basmati rice is far superior to the 1121 non basmati rice of India. The Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) and Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP) will need to make great efforts to popularise our super basmati rice which is tasty, aromatic and cooks exceedingly well and is undoubtedly the best rice in the world. Another very important facility required for the exporters is the finance facility for export to third world countries and to buyers who are banking with low rating banks.
There is urgent need for export credit insurance at low premium just like India has done to promote exports to third world countries. The third world countries have rice as their staple food. India has captured their markets and we are lagging behind. Same is the case with Iran unless the facility for smooth transactions exist there can be no break through. India developed the currency agreement with Iran long ago whereas we were not yet ready to displease the sanction authors. Now with the re-entry of Iran in the SWIFT international currency exchange the possibilities look bright nevertheless Pakistan will have to re-enter the Iranian market with deligence to promote our super basmati rice.