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Pakistan’s rice products race against time with pride on the line

Rice is very famous commodity and ranks second among the staple food grain crops in Pakistan. Pakistan grows a relatively high quality of rice to fulfill domestic and export demand and even by this product the country earns large size of foreign exchange earnings. Researchers calculate that it accounts for 3.1 percent of the value added in agriculture and 0.6 percent of GDP. They also revealed that we have only two major rice-producing provinces such as; Sindh and Punjab. These provinces account for greater than 88 percent of total rice production. Due to its agro-climatic and soil presentations, Punjab is producing 100 percent of the Basmati rice in Pakistan.

Furthermore, the country’s kalar bowl area is famous for producing Basmati rice and is placed between the Ravi and Chenab rivers in Punjab. IRRI rice is grown in both Punjab and Sindh. Researchers also revealed that during FY2017-18 rice production is forecast at 6.9 million metric tons, 1.5 percent above the previous year’s updated production. Area is predicted to rise slightly from the revised official 2016-17 area. During FY2016-17 production is adjusted downwards to 6.8 million tons, according to the government statistics. Production and yields during the previous 3-year have been good with little fluctuation. This is due in part to the deposit of a nutrient rich top layer of soil as a consequence of several floods in present years.

In Pakistan, rice is a monsoon crop but the introduction of hybrid varieties in recent periods has influenced the timing of sowing and transplanting. Hybrid varieties are sown as early as March and April instead of June and July. However, sowing timing is heavily influenced by the extent and spread of monsoon rains, and the availability of underground and irrigated water. Irrigation water is mostly sourced from the runoff of the Himalayan glacier melt into the Indus river basin, so temperatures during the months of May and June are critical in determining the season’s water availability. Different agriculture sources mentioned that during FY2017-18 consumption is forecast at 2.9 million tons at par with the previous marketing year. Unlike many other Asian states, rice is not considered a staple food crop in Pakistan.

PAKISTAN RICE EXPORTS (Nov/October)
Months MY 15/16 MY 16/17
November 547,286 438,399
December 475,346 391,161
January 390,323 390,690
Total 1,724,690 1,220,250

Traditionally, 40 to 45 percent of the crop is utilized for domestic consumption, with the balance exported. Generally, Pakistanis prefer the higher priced Basmati rice if they can afford it, if not they consume long grain IRRI rice, but wheat is the favored staple. In 2016, domestic rice prices displayed an upward trend and the price of rice in December 2016 was 9.0 percent higher than in December 2015.

Sources said that an estimated 200,000 tons of 40-100 percent broken rice is used in poultry and animal feed yearly. The country has so far exported 1.22 million metric tons as against to 1.72 million metric tons during the corresponding period a year ago. During FY 2016-17 rice exports are predicted at 4.0 million metric tons down 7.0 percent from the previous year’s statistics of 4.3 million metric tons. It has also been revealed that Pakistan’s rice exports are facing stiff competition from Thailand and Vietnam. Presently the exporters from these states are quoting rates in the range of $355-360 per ton for 5 percent broken rice, while prices for Pakistani rice in the same category is hovering about $380 FOB Karachi. The local market is facing imports with 10 percent tariff and strong preferences for local rice. Researchers also revealed that rice is a major Pakistani export to US. Out of $104 million in Pakistani agricultural products exports to US during 2016, rice exports comprised $26.7 million (26 percent of the total).

On the other hand, during FY2016-17 and FY2017-18 ending stocks are forecast at steady 800,000 tons. Rice trade in the country is carried out by the private sector with little or no intervention from the Government of Pakistan. Since the publicly-run Rice Export Corporation of Pakistan was disbanded 20 years ago, Pakistan’s rice traders have responded well to market liberalization and over the years have become key players in world rice trading. The milling industry made significant investments in state-of-the-art processing machinery, but the country exports most of its rice in bulk with no modern packaging and branding.

Exporting firms could be doing more to develop brands and a more important presence in foreign markets. However, the export industry is comprised of a large number of relatively small companies that are often family-run and accustomed to traditional trading practices. However, that is changing and Pakistan’s rice exporters are becoming progressively active advocates for their industry and their trade interests. With time, the industry is predicted to adopt more strategic and brand-based approaches to rice exporting.

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