Pakistan grows finest quality rice but at low average yield

By Dr. S.M. ALAM
July 11 - 17, 2005

Rice is  the second most important crop at the global level, as it is used as a staple food in most countries of the world and will continue to be for the foreseeable feature. About 80 per cent of the crop is currently grown in Asia which is inhibited by more than 60 per cent of the world population who consume rice as their main item of diet.

In the  next coming 40 years, the world will require 70 per cent more rice grain than that it requires today. According to conservative estimates, about 800 million tons of rice will have to be grown with considerate reduction in the input of agrochemical under sustainable conditions.  Rice is the most diverse crop grown in the  agricultural fields. About 12,000  varieties are grown across  the world in an extensive range of climatic, soil, water and environmental conditions.  Rice is grown as far north as Czeck Republic and Manchuria and as far south as Uruguay and New South Wales in Australia. China is the main rice producing country in the world followed by India, Indonesia and Bangladesh. However, yield per hectare is the highest at 6.5 tons in Japan followed by 5.1 tons per hectare in China. All over the world it is grown over an area of 158.87 million hectares, giving 595.74 million tons of paddy in the current year. Rice is cultivated through out the world and the major countries in Asia are: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Kampuchea, North and South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam etc. European countries are: Albania, Bulgaria, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Spain etc. In Africa the major rice growing countries include: Algeria, Angola, Benin, Cameron, Chad, Congo, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, Niger, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zaire, Zambia, Zimbabwe. In the Pacific region, rice is cultivated in Australia, Fiji, Pacific Islands, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Island etc. The major rice growing countries in North Central America are: Belize, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Port Reecho, Trinidad Tobago and USA etc. Besides,  Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guinea, Ghana, Prague , Peru, Surinam, Uruguay, Venezuela, etc. are the rice growing countries in South America .

In terms of average annual consumption of rice, Vietnam is at the top with the consumption of 250 kg of rice per person followed by Thailand with 215 kg per person. Though rice is the second most important staple food in Pakistan, its per capita consumption is only about 21 kg per person . China is the number one rice producer (145 million tons) followed by India with 98 million tons. On the other hand, Thailand is the leading rice exporter with  more than 5 million tons a year.

Rice is  the largest Kharif summer crop as well as an important food and cash crop of Pakistan, which occupies  nearly 10 per cent of the country's cropped areas. Rice production is estimated at 5.1  million ton per annum, which accounts for 17 per cent of the total production of the food grains in the country. The share of rice as the value added major crop stands at around 15 per cent. During 2003-2004, Pakistan exported nearly 2.5 million tons of rice and earned about $ 6 billion in foreign exchange. Pakistan enjoys a monopoly in the export of world's famous fine aromatic Basmati variety. It is a wonderful aromatic rice which used to be the delight of the Aryans some thousand year ago and they named it as 'fragrance of virgin  girl' (Basmati). Characterized by extra large superfine slender grains, Basmati possesses pleasant and exquisite aroma, sweet taste, soft texture, delicate curvature, and extra elongation with a least bread wise and swelling on cooking. In order to remain in the international market, we have to further improve the quality as well as  yield of Basmati varieties.  Rice plays a pivotal agro-based role and occupies a conspicuous position in agricultural economy of Pakistan.

Rice, therefore, occupies a very significant position in the national economy. Pakistan is among the four major rice exporting countries of the world, but producing only 5.1 million tons compared to 21.4, 16.8 and 88.8 million tons by Vietnam, Thailand and India, respectively, which are the other three exporters. Demand of rice, the largest staple food, is increasing with the increasing population of the world. It is expected that consumption of rice in the world will increase from 560 million tons in 1995 to 786 million tons by 2020 for meeting the requirements of the population explosion.

The government has adopted a number of policy measures to promote larger production of all types of rice, particularly Basmati variety. Punjab is the biggest producer of rice in the country and contributes 48  per cent to national production followed by Sindh, Balochistan and NWFP which contribute 42, 8 and 3 percent, respectively. Out of total 2.4 million hectares, about 62 per cent of rice area mostly lies in upper Punjab. Some of the important varieties grown  in the country are Super Basmati, Basmati-385, Basmati-2000, Shaheen  Basmati, Shua-92, Shadab, Niab-IRRI-9. KS-282 etc. All rice is irrigated and transplanted. Despite the prime position of rice in the national economy and world market, the average yield in Pakistan is discouragingly low being only 2.7 and 1.6 tons per hector  as against 3.92, 2.98, 6.58, 6.34 and 8.91 tons per hectare in India, USA, China  and Egypt, respectively.

Pakistan has been endowed by nature with vast potentialities for growing rice on large scale, the relatively leveled terrain, heavy soils with good water holding capacity, good sunny days, congenial climatic conditions and abundant supplies of farm labour. But the scarcity of irrigation water and salinity of soil as well as ground water are the major limiting factors. A vast rice growing area of the country is under the influence of marginal to severe salinity. It has been reported that 6.3 mha of arable lands of Pakistan are affected by salinity. Researcher must find ways and means for utilization of saline lands and brackish water by exploiting genetic resources and improved agronomic practices. To provide food to the ever-increasing population, interests have been intensified by the economists, agriculturists and government planning agencies to utilize various types of unproductive lands. Particularly in countries having arid or semi-arid climates, one opportunity for meeting future needs lies in reclamation of salt-affected soils. On these soils, some crops cannot make normal growth owing to the presence of soluble salts in the soil solution. For any crop, a high water table is a serious salinity hazard. Evaporation from surface soil or absorption of water by crop roots near the soil surface tends to produce a moisture gradient that causes water to move upward from the water table. Such movement of water carries additional salt into the upper layers of the soil and causes them to become more saline. The use of irrigation water containing too much salt, or poor management of even good irrigation water, can cause soils to become saline. All irrigation water contains some salts. Heavy irrigation water is necessary to leach down the excess salt at the bottom layer of the soil. Usually, the salt concentration in the soil solution is indicated in terms of parts per million or of the electrical conductivity of the soil solution. The salt tolerance of crops has generally been expressed as the yield decrease expected for a given level of soluble salts in the root medium as compared with yield under non-saline conditions. There are several factors, which influence salt tolerance in  plants. The most important among these are species, temperature, salt composition, the growth stage of plant, salinity level, environmental variables, soil fertility and cultivators.

There is a vigorous need to increase the yield of  all varieties of rice  in the country. Adoption of appropriate production technology should be taken, which include the selection of high yielding varieties, proper time of cultivation, proper land preparation, time of nursery sowing, and transplanting of crop, optimum plant population, proper dose of fertilizers, insect pest control, proper irrigation, weed control and post harvest operation. Farmers should be provided all the  necessary  agricultural inputs  well in time in order to boost up the production of rice in the country.  Such management will definitely rise the rice production as well as export income.