Call for aggressive marketing campaign
By AMANULLAH BASHAR
Feb 23 - 29, 2004
Despite strong bilateral relations between Pakistan and brethren country Saudi Arabia, it is amazing that India occupies the lion's share in the rich Saudi market be it service sector or commodity exports.
Obviously, it's a failure on the part of the people responsible for carving a place for Pakistan products in the export market. The failure becomes more painful especially in the Muslim brethren countries.
Saudi Arabian market, which is a major consumer of par boiled basmati rice, is hundred percent occupied by the Indian exporters for their better and aggressing marketing campaign which includes quality of the products as well as services.
It is amazing despite knowing the fact that Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern states are major consumer of par boiled basmati rice, Pakistan's rice exports were restricted to only two varieties i.e. Irri and Basmati. Which naturally gave a walkover to the Indian exporters to take advantage of the situation? They are also producing more par boiled rice in view of the demand of the buyers.
Pakistan, it may be noted, produces over 4.8 million tons mainly Irri in the province of Sindh and Basmati in Punjab. Out of the total crop, over 50 percent is exported. The par boiled rice (joshi) produced in the country is consumed locally.
Recently, Pakistan has succeeded in getting export orders for 30,000 tons of par boiled rice to Saudi Arabia, which is certainly a big achievement especially in the face of strong hold of Indian exporters in that market.
The board has also strongly suggested increasing production of par boiled rice to add more varieties in the export manifesto of Pakistan.
The authorities including Rice Advisory Board and Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) have finally taken notice of lagging in that particular variety.
In this respect, the Rice Advisory Board is taking steps for improvement in the availability of quality seed to the farmers in all the four provinces to ensure better quality rice crop in Pakistan.
The board has directed that a project for production of hybrid seed of rice in Sindh be included in the annual development program and that the required technical manpower for it made available.
In the backdrop of the threatened action by the European Union against the rice exports of Pakistan, the board discussed the proposals to redress the situation. The Ministry of Food and Agriculture has drawn the Board's attention on the production of quality rice to the satisfaction of the buyer as well as to enhance the export base for this major export item from Pakistan.
The agriculture lands and the environment both are ideally suited for rice cultivation in Pakistan. At present, per acre yield is much below the world measures of per acre yield in the country.
According to experts, one of the major reasons of low yield was identified as sparse plant population. As against the required 80,000 plants per acre, in the farm, the average population of plants was 55,000-60,000 plants per acre.
Noting that the export of Basmati rice to the Middle East was improving, the rice board stressed the need of encouraging the installation of par-boiled rice plants so as to fetch greater share of par-boiled rice market in Saudi Arabia.
To minimize losses suffered in rice production, the board directed that the cultivation of DR-98, a fine grain variety of Sindh, and PK-386 in Punjab be banned and the implementation of this decision ensured strictly.
The provincial governments have also been advised to approve new rice varieties only after strict evaluation for quality and ascertaining their distinctness from existing varieties. It was also underlined in the meeting that strengthening of rice research institutes now functioning in the provinces. Under another decision, the government, would arrange for a number of selected growers to visit the countries distinguished for higher yields of rice.
While reviewing the supply situation of rice, the meeting noted with satisfaction that the country was self-sufficient in rice. Out of the output of 4.8 million tons, 50 percent was available for every year.
In an effort to expand the export base of rice, Pakistan has formally approached the Chinese government, seeking quarantine certificate to introduce its high quality rice in the Chinese market.
Negotiations are underway with the Chinese officials to get permission to penetrate into Chinese market. It may be noted that China itself a rice producing country, yet in the face of huge consumption at home, the Chinese government has import rice to meet its food requirement. Currently, the bulk of rice is imported from Thailand. Last year China imported over 300,000 tons of Thai rice. However, as far as the quality of rice was concerned, the rice produced in Pakistan is much better to than rice imported from Thailand. Since some Chinese companies have shown their keen interest in Pakistani basmati, there are strong possibilities that Pakistan can make its place in that market in near future.
Currently, China's rice stocks have drastically gone down due to decline in rice production for the last four year. Recently, Chinese officials have announced to enhance their rice import to ensure sustainable food supply in the country.