RICE CONSUMPTION IN PAKISTAN

Interview: Abdul Aziz Maniya, Chairman REAP

SADAF AURANGZAIB
July 23 - 29, 2007

Pakistan is an agricultural country where rice, the third largest cash crop, is widely cultivated and consumed throughout Pakistan and is also exported in large quantities. PAGE talked to the chairman of REAP, Mr. Abdul Aziz Maniya about the importance of rice and its development.

PAGE: What role does rice play in our food industry?

AM: A country where Rice is the third largest product grown, it is definitely very important that it is used as a major raw material for value added industries in which we are far behind. We need to invest in Rice value added industries because the raw material is available. An example is cotton, the difference in price of Cotton and its eventual Value Added garment is manifolds, we need such measures in the Rice sector to increase the value of Rice.

PAGE: What are the main uses of rice ?

AM: Rice is consumed basically for cooking purposes at our homes however with the value addition we can also enhance our consumption in the forms of Rice Snacks, Rice Syrup (A replacement to sugar), Rice Papadums, and Rice Cakes etc.

PAGE: What is the actual size of crop this year?

AM: The actual size of Crop for 2006-2007 is 5.46 Million Tons

PAGE: How much of it we are exporting and how much are we using for general consumption?

AM: 2006-2007 Exports is targeted around 2.5 Million Tons, the balance is consumed locally.

PAGE: Which varieties of rice are basically popular in our food industry like what is the general preference of hotels and restaurants etc?

AM: Food industry uses the 'brokens' of Irri-6 Rice which is the cheapest raw material available. Cheap Rice does not mean bad quality but a variety of rice which is cheaper in price. The vendors who sell uncooked packed Rice in small packs of 1, 2, 5 or 10 kgs use all the other varieties of rice including basmati Rice.

PAGE: What is your view on the food processing sector, how important it can play its role in developing the food industry?

AM: Pakistan is far behind in food technology and industries. Our research is practically zero compared to the developed countries. The Government needs to establish research centers identifying and putting food processing industries together with its feasibility reports ready for the investors. This is one of the major sectors which have been overlooked. If we look at the number of Potato snacks of a super market in a developed country, we will get tired of just counting the different types of potato snacks. Just imagine the value addition done to a small potato. We need to identify the Rice Value added industries in order to benefit to the maximum with our third largest crop.

PAGE: How many varieties of rice are we producing and which are the following that we normally export to other countries?

AM: We are producing a number of Rice varieties in both basmati as well as Non-basmati sector, but the main varieties which we export are Irri-6, Irri-9, Pk-198, Basmati -385 and Super Basmati.

PAGE: What are the current export targets for the New Year?

AM: The next target depends on our crop size, but it is $ 1.3 Billion.

PAGE: Do the recent floods would also dampen down our rice exports in future?

AM: I hope not. Let us all pray together that our crop in the affected areas is not an irreparable damage.

PAGE: What sort of challenges do you think our rice brands are facing both in local and international chain of hotels and restaurants?

AM: The challenge is marketing! Rice which is mainly available in Brands is our Basmati Rice, on one hand our Basmati is the best but on the other hand our marketing is still a little weak. Rice industry has come into the private sector just around 15 years whereas our competition has its roots already in our exporting markets. Our exporters are dynamic, hard working and enterprising enough to capture a major share of all the markets in the world. The marketing strategy has now shifted to Global marketing and with the support that we are now getting from the Government we are going to go a long way forward.