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Pakistan’s rice exports surged 17% in the first 10 months of FY 2021-22

By Mariam Raheem | Gwadar Pro May 26, 2022

LAHORE, May 25 (Gwadar Pro) - When Pakistan faces a wheat shortage and its zero exports for two years, the country’s rice exports continue to grow rapidly.

According to Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), Pakistan’s rice exports reached $2.05 billion in the first 10 months of the fiscal year (2021-2022), up 17% over the same period last year, exceeding the total export volume of the previous fiscal year. The total volume of its exports reached 4.04 million tons, up 27% over the same period last year.

According to PBS, rice for export is divided into Basmati and other categories of rice. Of this total, Basmati rice exports reached $570 million, up 22 percent from the same period last year, while the other qualities of rice exports totaled $1.48 billion, up 15 percent from the same period last year.

Other categories of rice, including hybrid rice, are important cash crops in Pakistan, accounting for 72 percent of the total rice exports, which has a significant impact on the foreign exchange earnings of Pakistani rice exports.

In fact, other rice helped double Pakistan’s rice exports over the past two decades. From FY 2002-03 to FY 2020-2021, other rice export value grew 11.9 times, according to PBS. Basmati, the flagship rice variety, saw its exports increase 3.3 times over the same period.

One of the secrets of Pakistan’s rice foreign exchange earnings lies in super seeds bred with Chinese hybrid technology.

“We were using hybrid technology in rice and getting excellent results,” Abdul Rasheed, Chief Research and Development from an agricultural company based in Pakistan, told Gwadar Pro. “Before the introduction of Chinese varieties, Pakistani farmers used conventional varieties with a yield of 4-5 MT/ha. After the introduction of hybrid rice, the yields and their income doubled.”

“The overall yield of the new varieties is 30-50% higher than that of the local traditional varieties,” Long Chunjiu, chief scientist of South Asia Seed R&D Center, which carries out technical collaboration on hybrid rice in Pakistan said. “The new variety has high yield and strong stress resistance (high temperature resistance, saline-alkali resistance) and good lodging resistance, and its seed setting rate can still reach more than 85 percent in June and July, the hottest months of the year.” In contrast, native varieties are prone to lodging, with a seed setting rate of 75% to 85%, limited to low salinity and no high temperature environment.

It is worth noting that this breeding technique is also expected to be applied to Basmati rice.

Basmati is very popular around the world. Its export price is about twice that of the other qualities of rice, but the yield per acre is very low. Long Chunjiu selected local varieties 1121, 1509, Basmati, super Basmati and so on to cross with Chinese high quality materials. At the beginning of 2021, four varieties were demonstrated in 16 agro-ecological demonstration zones in Pakistan, which were sown at the end of June and early July and harvested in November. Data shows that the yield of hybrid Basmati is more than twice that of local varieties, reaching 7 to 8 tons per hectare. The yield of local varieties is about 3 to 4 tons per hectare.

“The local Basmati varieties have thin stems, easy lodging, few total grains per panicle, poor stress resistance, and the growth period is about 130-140 days, while the hybrid Basmati can make up for the above defects, and the growth period is about 120 days, which is relatively moderate. However, at present, the rice grain extension of hybrid Basmati i.e. the length of steamed rice grains is about 15 mm, which has not yet met the requirements, and efforts are being made to approach the 17 mm length of local varieties” Long Chunjiu explained.

“After the completion of the two-year national regional trial, the results of the hybrid basmati seeds will be submitted to the Variety Evaluation Committee (VEC) of the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) for approval and commercialization. The growers of Basmati are likely to get the long-awaited hybrid Basmati in the next three to five years.” said Shahzad Ali Malik, CEO of a Pakistani agricultural company.

“The development of Pakistan’s hybrid rice industry has also attracted many Chinese companies to invest in farming in Pakistan. At present, the area of hybrid rice planting has reached 700,000 hectares, of which Punjab has the largest rice planting area, ” Long Chunjiu said.

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