WHEAT AND RICE

TWO MAJOR FOOD CROPS OF PAKISTAN

M.R. CHOUDHRY
June 18 - 24, 2007

Wheat and rice are two major food crops of Pakistan, that play an active role in providing food for about 160 million people of the country and earning valuable foreign exchange through exports of the surplus of these crops.

WHEAT:

Wheat is an important Rabi crop. The earlier target of the Government and estimate of wheat production, projected at 21.5 million tons, was subsequently raised to 23 million tons for the year, 2006-07, News of a bumper wheat crop started floating in the media every now and then. The factor that contributed to this "bumper wheat crop" was mainly the timely rain falls, which proved a great blessing for the crop and the farmers.

The global food companies, which have a vast network of their business representatives in almost all the developing countries and have effective influence in the political circle and bureaucracy, were determined to make substantial profits. While there was plenty of wheat in the country, the wheat crop in Australia and a few other large wheat producing countries in the world, was not up to their expectations. Resultantly, orders from India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, UAE and many other African countries were flooding into Pakistan. It may also be worthwhile to mention that Pakistan wheat is considered to be the best for its nutritional value, taste and other qualities. The commodity traders for the sake of exploitation and in order to grind their axe in the prevailing scenario, were giving a prediction of the crop even to exceed 24 million tons, reportedly, the Government had decided to export 5 million of wheat in 2007. However, subsequently seeing the prevailing rates of Atta and wheat within the country, the Government plugged further export of wheat to rationalize rate and supply of wheat within Pakistan.

As every thing in Pakistan happens in a hatch patch way, no exact figures of the quantity of wheat exported, reserved stocks available and the actual yield are available. Admittedly, Pakistan lacks an effective and accurate system for estimating the crops scientifically, while Pakistan depends upon patwaris for collections of data in this regard, other developing countries are employing satellite technology to predict crop estimates and weather conditions including rain falls. The estimates based on the information collected from patwaris at times fall short of the actual figures, which lead to a hazardous position so far as arranging food security for 160 million people within the country is concerned, particularly when a sizeable quantity of when wheat is exported and smuggled onto neighboring countries, especially Afghanistan. The need of the hour is that the Government of Pakistan must also use satellite technology and other scientific technologies, besides taking into consideration

Other unforeseen circumstances including smuggling. It is necessary also to keep the farmers abreast of the weather conditions so that they may make the best use of the information thus passed on to them, for growing, sowing, harvesting and taking care of their crops, farms and fields to avoid losses due to bad weather conditions, including wind storms, heavy rainfalls, hailstorms, earth tremors, land sliding, floods etc.

According to the food secretary Punjab, the market price in the entire province at the time of harvesting was ranging between Rs. 420 to Rs. 425 per 40kg and the government had arranged gunny bags for 3.4 million tons of wheat for procurement of wheat for procurement of wheat. On the other hand, the Agri forum Pakistan, farmer's body was lamenting for the indifferent attitude of the food department and alleged that unnecessary delay in purchase of wheat from farmers, shortage of gunny bags and limited number of purchase centers had badly affected smooth purchase of wheat this year at the support price. In the meantime the rate of wheat in the local market has become unaffordable for common man, as a consequence of uncontrolled exports of the commodity bent upon extorting unreasonable profits, while the poor farmers could hardly make a marginal profit after paying for costly inputs. This problem being faced by the growers need to be addressed seriously by the Government instead of making tall claims of its being 'farmer friendly'.

RICE:

Rice production showed a decrease of nearly 5 percent with total production of the commodity last year, 2006-07 as against 5.2 million tons for the year, 2005-06.

According to the officials of the ministry of food and agriculture, the rice yield per acre was expected to increase by 4.7 percent but it has come down both area under cultivation and yield decreased because of shortage of water attack of pests on the crop. This fact must not skip the attention of authorities concerned that paddy crop is a water intensive crop overall decrease in rice production in Punjab was recorded at 5.5 percent both in Basmati and IRRI varieties, with total production of 3.07 million tons. The target of Punjab last year was fixed for 3.2 million tons. Area wise, rice crop was projected at 1.7 million hectares. The yield of the paddy declined from 1898 tons per hectare to 1791 per hectare.

In Sindh the total rice production showed a decline of 2.5 percent, quantifying it at 1.76 million tons against the target of 1.80 million tons. Sindh only cultivates IRRI varieties in kachha areas of Indus River; it also showed a decrease in yield per acre. On the other hand N.W.F.P. showed a slight increase of 0.2 percent in rice production against its target of 0.1 million tons while Balochistan fell short by 230.000 tons with actual production of 0.47 million tons as against the target of 0.50 million tons showing a decrease of 5.6 percent.

Chairman, Rice Export Association of Pakistan (REAP), Abdul Aziz Maniya said that the international prices of Basmati rice had shown an increase at 35- 40 percent since November, 2006 due to short production of rice in other largest rice producing countries. According to him the average price of Basmati is $850 per ton now, shooting up from $650 per ton in November 2006. Similarly, 30 percent broken Irri-6 is exported at $265 per ton. The rate was $ 215 per ton at the start of the season.

Maniya said that the rate of percent broken Irri-6 was about $ 300 per ton as against $ 250 per ton in November 2006. Reportedly China, Thai Land, Viet Nam, India and Sri Lanka had a shortfall in rice production last season, especially in the production of coarse varieties. This benefited Pakistan, where rice production has been sufficient enough to enable Pakistan to export large quantity of this popular staple food crop. He expected that Pakistan would meet its target of $ 1.3 billion in the export of rice by the end of June 30, 2007. He however, expressed his apprehension that exporters may not be able to benefit for the 40 percent rise in the international market but they would be able to get 15-20 percent benefit in the value because most of the Pakistani exporters had already entered into agreements with foreign buyers at last year's prices.

The provisional data complied by the federal bureau of statistics reveals that the export price of Basmati rice has increased by 20 percent while the export quantity rose by 16.22 percent between July 2006- March, 2007. The value of exported Basmati amounted to $ 818.157 million till March, 2007. News of rice smuggling from Pakistan, especially into Iran, has also been floating in the print media. The result is that rice is selling at a very high rate in the local market for indigenous consumption.

HYBRID RICE SEED AGREEMENT WITH CHINA:

It would be heartening to note that Pakistan has inked an accord for hybrid rice seed with Beijing. Pakistan rice growers currently sow Irri-6 variety over 94.5 percent of the area, where this type of variety is cultivated. Hybrid rice is cultivated on 5.5 percent area. Irri-6 variety production is stagnating at 50-60 maunds per acre for more than four decades. Internationally this variety has been replaced by hybrid seed varieties. The per acre yield of this variety in China, which is the pioneer of this technology, is 100-130 maunds per acre as against the aforementioned production Irri-6 in Pakistan. Pakistan arranged to procure hybrid rice seed from Yuan Longping High Tech. Agriculture Company privately and this variety is sown currently in Sindh and some southern districts of Punjab.

Pakistan produces two long varieties the long grain super Basmati and Basmati 385 grown in certainly Punjab mostly in Sheikhupura, Gujranwala and Sialkot and coarse grain Irri variety cultivated in southern parts of the country, the agricultural experts expect the sowing area of Irri-6 to increase to 115,714 acres in 2007, equal to an increase of 5.42 percent of the area of Irri variety rapidly after 2005. According to Shahid Malik, the area is expected to reach 857,143 acres by 2020, which would be equal to 40.19 percent of the total area where Irri variety is sown in the country. (This would only be possible if irrigation water supply position considerably improves with the construction of mega water reservoirs like Kala Bagh Dam).

It is expected that exportable Irri variety surplus in 2012 would be worth $ 600 million when the hybrid rice cultivation is expected to increase to only 40 percent of total Irri area.

VARIETIES:

There are long grain rice varieties, namely:

Super Kernel Basmati rice, which has a long grain with slender kernel.

The grains are separate, light, and fluffy with an exotic aroma and fragrance. This variety is used for special dishes of rice such as biryani.

Basmati PK-385 has a rather dry grain. The grain becomes long and separate when cooked; it has a pleasing aroma and delicate texture.

Pakistani Basmati enjoys great popularity and accepted in the world, and its price is 3-4 times of the coarse varieties. These high quality Pakistani rice varieties grown here are the forefront runners in the international market.

PK-386 long grain rice, long grain Irri-9 rice, long grains Irri-6 are less expensive and preferred over Indian and Thai rice in the same category.

BROWN RICE: it is a least processed and natural form of rice. Its bran layers are rich in minerals and vitamins especially the B Complex Group. The natural aroma and flavor is similar to that of roasted nuts or popcorn. It is recommended as a nutritional food for the weak, ailing aged people and children.

PARA-BOILED RICE: the variety passes through a unique hydro-thermal process before being milled. It is soaked, steamed, dried and then milled in order to remove the outer hull. It is preferred by the consumers and chefs, who desire extra fluffy and separate rice.

EXPORTS:

Pakistan on an average exported rice worth $ 1.27 billion. During the year, 2006-07 super Basmati export netted $ 550 million and Irri-6 export fetched $ 650 million of the foreign exchange. Estimatedly the export of Irri alone would reach the current total rice export level in 2012. Smuggling of rice to Iran is also going on, which has badly affected the price of rice within in the country. while planning to export rice, the indigenous requirement of rice must also be kept in view to ensure food security in the country.