Govt should follow REAP’s suggestions for future prospects in the rice economy
Interview with Mr Mahmood Baqi Moulvi – Chairman, M. M. Group of Companies
PAGE: Tell me something about yourself, please:
Mahmood Baqi Moulvi: I am currently serving as an advisor to the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Chairman M. M. Group of Companies. I have previously held the post of Chairman REAP (Rice Exporters’ Association Pakistan) and General Sectary of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Karachi region.
M. M. Group of Companies is one of the fastest growing professionally managed organizations of Pakistan started by myself in 1986. Since then the company’s activities have diversified and progressed over a range of industries such as grains (rice and wheat), oil seeds and meals (canola, soybean, sunflower), palm oil and its fractions, trading of coal, shipping and cargo handling services (stevedoring), poultry (layers, broilers and fresh meat) as well as being a stock brokerage house offering clients to trade shares in the Pakistan Stock Exchange and trade commodities such as gold and silver on the Pakistan Mercantile Exchange.
PAGE: Your comments on the current state of rice production in Pakistan:
Mahmood Baqi Moulvi: The current state of rice production in Pakistan is very poor due to our inefficient agricultural practices. For example, we currently experience 15 percent harvest and post-harvest losses. This means we lose roughly $0.5 billion per annum on the rice we grow. Our irrigation water efficiency is only 33 percent whereas the global average stands at 90 percent. Our crop yields are at 2.7 tons per hectare whereas the world’s highest yield is currently 9 tons per hectare. Furthermore, we have failed to invest in seed research programs.
PAGE: Could you tell us about the modern methods being used by the farmers for rice production?
Mahmood Baqi Moulvi: Pakistani farmers have switched to planting certified seeds to grow rice. Laser levelers are now being utilized but their use needs to be scaled up. Furthermore, farmers have switched to employing nursery trays and mechanical transplanters. Kubota harvesters are being dedicated to harvest rice, thereby abandoning older, more traditional, and inefficient methods. New dryers and silos have been established to maintain the excellent quality of rice produced.
PAGE: How do you see the agriculture sector of Pakistan ten years from now?
Mahmood Baqi Moulvi: If Pakistan’s water lining course is not improved, the quantity and quality of rice produced will decline. Consequently, we will end up losing out on our exports completely despite our potentials to offer high quality rice to the world at competitive prices.
PAGE: What should the current government do for the increase in the export of agri products from Pakistan?
Mahmood Baqi Moulvi: The Rice Exporters Association Pakistan (REAP) has developed a 2019 to 2023 proposal which outlines how we as a nation can double our rice exports to over $5 billion from the current value of $2 billion. This includes chalking out rice industrial zones of over 500 acres in provinces of Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab. Furthermore, the harvest should be segregated into quantity levels once it arrives into the market. The Pakistan National Shipping Corporation (PNSC) should also develop loner vessels for East and West Africa to take back African markets. The federal and provincial governments should hear REAP’s suggestions as REAP has mapped the way forward.
PAGE: Could you tell us about the problems being faced by the rice exporters?
Mahmood Baqi Moulvi: There is a complete and total absence of demand-driven research in the field. This means Pakistan is still unable to work at its highest potentials. Exporters are never taken on board regarding the type of seed which needs to be developed and planted. This is highly problematic as rice exporters are the people who can give accurate and practical feedback concerning the competition they face from exporters of other origins such India, Thailand and Vietnam. In addition to this, due to an absence of railway freight options transporting the rice has become very expensive. We are wasting our fuel and resources on freight trucks instead of using barges in canals. A freight train network bringing the crop produced down to seaports would be cheaper and more efficient.