RICE EXPORTS TO DECLINE THIS YEAR
Value-addition is the answer to enhance earnings in rice sector
By AMANULLAH BASHAR
May 13 -19, 2002
Rice a cash crop of Pakistan which adds considerably to the foreign exchange earnings of the country, is feared to register a decline in exports mainly due to drought-led shortfall in the crop this year.
The size of the crop last year was estimated at 4.74 million tons, which has gone down to the size of 4 million tons in the current crop. Out of the total crop, around 2.5 million is required for local consumption while a good quantity of rice as well as wheat goes to neighbouring Afghanistan through unreported trade. Under the present scenario, the surplus rice for export purposes will not be available in accordance with the demand, sources said.
Basmati rice is a variety of the rice grown in fertile lands of Punjab irrigated by snow-fed rivers of Himalayas. The word 'Basmati' in fact is a combination of two different words that is 'Bas' which means fragrance and 'Mati' means soil. It is a product of the soil as such type of rice having fragrance can not be produced elsewhere except the Basmati producing belt especially in the west Punjab and some parts of the Eastern Punjab in India. Aged Basmati rice of one to two years old will grow its length twice, after cooking giving fragrance and delicious taste. Basmati rice is easy to digest, cholesterol free, Gluten free, low in salt and contains only a trace of fat.
Qaiser Shaikh while commenting on the qualities of Basmati rice said that we can double the size of our exports in rice in terms of money provided modern marketing techniques are used.
He said that generally Basmati is exported in loose form because our exporters have not developed a brand culture in rice products so far.
Marketing of our rice in the international market under the brand name means that we would double our exports in terms of value. In order to move in that direction, Qaiser Ahmed Shaikh, former President of Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry and leader of the independent members of the last national assembly, has gone into a joint venture with a Malaysian firm Bernas. Bernas is a Malaysian food conglomerate, with staff of over 4000 and listed with the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange with its regional network in Africa, Australia, Thailand, China, Myanmar and Vietnam.
Under this joint venture a most modern rice mill has been established in Karachi which is called :Qaiser-Noman Bernas' Private Limited. This is the first project of its kind where rice are polished, re-polished, sorted out and graded with the requirement of the world market.
QNB has a turnover of around Rs1.17 billion during the year 2000-2001 with a quantity of over 90,000 tons as compared to the year 2000 and 1999 which Rs682.460 million and Rs907.154 million respectively. This shows a percentage increase of 71 and 28 per cent compared to the year 2000 and 1999 respectively. QNB is the first company in Pakistan to have Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) certification from UK. HACCP is an internationally accepted methodology to reduce and manage risks associated with food processing. It is a preventive system for food safety that addresses chemical, physical and biological risks. QNB also have ISO-9002 certification and is working on ISO-14000.
This type of modernization efforts being done by QNB in fact should the source of inspiration for other companies engaged in export business to help establishing credibility of the country as the producer of quality products.
It is however appreciable that the government has completely come out of the rice business and it is being controlled entirely by the private sector. Since the arrival of the private sector, Pakistan's image as quality rice producing country is being reestablished in the world market. The international price of Basmati from Pakistan has also registered an increase and hopefully will continue to march ahead.
Besides concentrating on rice marketing under brand name, the exporters should also look into the possibility of other varieties of rice such as 'Joshi' which has a great demand in the world market. So far Pakistan has not exported a single grain of Joshi rice while India's major export in rice depends on Joshi rice.
FOLLOWING VARIETIES ARE PRODUCED IN PAKISTAN:
Basmati 385 (In Brown, While and Par-Boiled Rice),
PK-386, IRRI-6, IRRI-9 and Broken rice.
In the previous year, Pakistan exported around 2.1 million tons of rice as compared to 1.9 million tons exported by India who is the major competitor of Pakistani rice in the world market. The reason for lower export by India was the bad crop. However, unlike a good yield last year, the situation is quite different this time as India have a much better crop of rice while farming sector in Pakistan suffered due to persistent drought like conditions, said Qaiser Ahmed Shaikh, one of the leading rice exporters in the country.
He said that the export figures in rice indicate that the amount exported by Pakistan up to March 2002 were estimated at 0.4 million tons as against the level of 0.9 million tons achieved by India this time.