May 12 - 18, 2008

Rice is the staple food of more than half of the world's population. In Asia rice is not just an important staple food, it is also part and parcel of life. China claims to be the first country that introduced this grain to the world. In the recorded history of China (2400 B.C.), the Chinese emperor, Sheng Nungs realized the importance of rice as food for his people and used to celebrate a festival for rice growing for one day annually. Another concept is that first of all rice was grown 3000 BC in the area known as Baali in Indonesia.

The Chinese word for rice is the same as for food. In Thailand, when they call for meal, they shall say: "Eat rice". In Japan, the word for cooked rice is the same as the word for meal.

In March 2008, thirty-five countries had recorded food riots. In Philippines and Indonesia rice hoarding is going on while governments of Vietnam, India and Cambodia have taken steps to restrict exports of rice in order to maintain local supplies. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has rather taken unprecedented steps of guaranteeing rice supplies to Hong Kong and Macau after observing that high prices have triggered panic buying.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has given a prediction that demand of rice will increase the production globally. According to an estimate, the production for 2007-08 is expected to be 421 million tons as against the forecast consumption of 424 million tons. The reasons attributed to shortfall in production were water shortage and sharp cold-spell in China, flood in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam, excessive rain-falls in North and South Korea, a typhoon in the Philippines and severe drought in Australia. Expectedly global rice stocks are 4 percent below the year earlier. Besides, 90 percent of rice that is produced in different countries like Thailand is consumed domestically, narrowing the scope for its export.


Thailand, India, Vietnam, USA, Pakistan, China, Egypt, Italy, Uruguay and Spain


Price of rice is swelling every now and then in the world. At the end of 2007, it was selling at $360 per metric ton while only a week ago medium grade Thai rice (considered a market bench-mark) was selling at $795 a ton. The Thai rice exporters Association expected rice prices to shoot as high as $850 per ton. According to exporters the price of rice is still to rise to $1000 per ton sometime in the next three months.

Following India, the government of Pakistan was reluctant to export rice to maintain its local supply. However, according to a senior government official the government can only ban export of one staple food at a time and it has already restricted the export of wheat and banning export of rice is out of question.

On the other hand, Pakistan is expected to export rice worth $1.5 billion in 2007-08. Kadir Bux Baloch, Agriculture Development Commissioner told that total exportable rice is estimated at 3 million tons. Out of this, one million tons would of our world class rice variety Basmati, which possesses long grain rice and is famous for its fragrance and delicate flavour. The word Basmati means "Queen of Fragrance" in Hindi. Two million tons of rice to be exported would be Irri. These varieties (Basmati and Irri) would fetch $1.00 billion and $0.8 billion respectively, making a total foreign earning of $1.08 billion.

Mr. Baloch stated that rice is cultivated on an area of 2.5 million hectares of land with production of 5.5 million tons. Referring to Basmati variety, he stated that Pakistan produces world class famous aromatic Basmati rice, which due to its superior quality fetches the highest price in the international market. The year 2007-08 is expected to fetch record high price for Pakistani Basmati at $1100 per tons. It is no doubt a rich source of foreign exchange earning. Reportedly, effective 2nd May, 2008 the rice exports have come to a complete halt following the agreement of Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (Reap) with Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock (Minfal).


Among the rice importing countries, following thirty countries are well known:

Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Philippines, Bangladesh, Islamic Republic of Iran, China, Cote d'lvoire, Brazil, Senegal, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Korea, Japan, United Kingdom, Malaysia, United States of America, Benin, France, Mexico, Russia, Ghana, Indonesia, Singapore, Canada, Hong Kong, Yemen, Cameroon, Haiti, Belgium and Germany.

There is a great demand for Irri-6 in African countries and other countries. Efforts should be made to retain our markets of rice of Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Middle East and Sri Lanka, Kenya, Oman, Yemen and Singapore. A comprehensive policy should be chalked out not only to enhance export of rice but also to increase rice production. According to International Grain Council Report 2008 rice amounting to 29.6 million metric tons is traded in the world. Rice contributes 7 percent in the overall foreign exchange earnings of Pakistan. While cotton and cotton products lead all commodities to be exported, rice enjoys second position after cotton and cotton products. Its share in the country's economy is 1.2 percent. During the year, 2006-07 Pakistan exported 31,29,142 tons of rice, which valued 11,25,819 thousand dollars.


Pakistan exported 655,506 metric tons of Basmati rice, which valued 4,41,43000 American dollars, which quantity-wise is 12.43 percent more than the last year's export. The average price of Basmati rice till February, 2008 was $677.56 per ton, which is 15.32 percent more than the preceding year's price. Punjab produces 57 percent of the total Basmati rice variety. The climate and soil of some of its districts is most suitable for production of Basmati rice. Pakistani Basmati rice is mostly produced in Gujranwala, Sheikhupura, Sialkot, Hafizabad and Okara. The present local market rate of Basmati rice is Rs.100 per kg.


Irri rice is mostly grown in the province of Sindh. This province produces 68 percent of the rice of Pakistan. Punjab produces 19 percent of Irri variety of rice and occupies the second position in producing this variety. This variety is mostly exported. The share of Irri rice export in the overall export of rice is 51 percent. Pakistan exported 22,21,236 tons of Irri rice this year, which values 569,499 thousand American dollars. This year exported quantity of this variety is 22.05 percent less. The Irri rice production per annum is 1.9 million tons. It's per acre yield is almost double the Basmati rice. The areas where rice is popularly grown in Sindh are Larkana, Nawab Shah and Shikarpur. The export of Irri (July-February) was 983,112 tons while in the corresponding period last year, it was 15,38,211 tons. However, till February the average price of Irri was $356.41 per ton, which is higher by 41.49 than in the last year.

It may be noted that this year prices of rice are showing upward trend to the extent of 50 to 80 percent as compared to the preceding year. However, the Government must assess all pros and cons with regard to the total production, export and local consumption so that there is no food shortage within the country.


Reportedly rice researchers and scientists will focus on long grain, disease resistant and drought tolerant high yield varieties of rice, which could survive water shortage. This was consensus of national workshop on "Sustainable Rice Production" held at Research Institute Kala Shah Kaku.


- Early announcement of support price of rice by the government should be ensured every year to give a timely temptation to the farmers so that they may work with interest, more devotion, and zeal.

- Rice growers may be provided better quality of certified seeds along with necessary fertilizers, irrigation water, and other inputs at affordable prices. Yield per acre of each and every crop, besides other factors, mainly depends upon seed. Quality seed is thus the basic thing, which is the pre-requisite for better yield and overall production.

- Paddy is a water intensive crop. Therefore, the government must make it sure that the crop does not suffer for want of irrigation water at any stage before harvesting. Agriculture tube-wells run on electricity can remain operative for as long as power is available. Alternatively, there are diesel operated tube-wells. Price of diesel is unaffordable for our farmers. The government must come to the rescue of farmers in order to maintain food supply in the country and to enable farmers produce enough for local consumption as well as for export.

- Nothing tangible can be achieved in production without the political will. Mere lip service would not do.

- Credit facilities on soft terms may be made available to small land-owners and farmers so that they do not suffer for want of funds to get better yields.

- Rural infra-structure should be improved so that farmers have an access to the market for sale of their produce at reasonable price without involvement of the third party and middle man.