Pakistan has the potential to raise its rice exports to US $10 billion within the next 14-15 years, but this hinges on the efforts of Trade and Investment Officers abroad. They must project Pakistan as a reliable rice supplier and facilitate collaborations with foreign FMCGs (fast-moving consumer goods) companies. “Rice, the second-largest export sector after textiles, saw exports hovering around US $462 million in 2002. This figure jumped to US $2.5 billion in 2023 and is expected to surpass US $3 billion this year,” stated Shahzad Ali Malik, member of the Federal Export Advisory Council (non-textile) and chairman of the Punjab Rice Research and Development Board. “At the current pace, we can reach US $5 billion by 2028 and double that in the next decade. However, continued production of an exportable surplus is crucial.” Malik also suggested leveraging India’s rice export ban to Pakistan’s advantage. “By meeting international demand during past Indian bans, we established ourselves as a reliable source,” he noted.
During a briefing for newly appointed Trade and Investment Officers at the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FPCCI) zonal office, Malik, who is also CEO of Guard Agricultural Research & Development (Guard), emphasized the importance of adopting rice seed hybridization for higher yields. He explained that Pakistan has two primary rice varieties: Basmati and non-Basmati.
The IRRI-type rice grown in Sindh, acquired from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the 1960s, lacked a replacement until 1990. That year, Guard initiated trials of hybrid seeds in collaboration with Chinese partners. Malik credited his company’s efforts with doubling Sindh farmers’ yields, from 45-50 maunds per acre to over 100 maunds. This not only strengthened farmers financially and alleviated rural poverty but also boosted rice production from 9 million tons in 2002 to 9.3 million tons in 2023. “Surplus production has fueled increased rice exports,” Malik added, advocating for similar interventions across all rice varieties.
Concluding his presentation, Malik, who is also chairman of the Pakistan Hi-Tech Hybrid Seed Association (PHSSA), stressed the need for Trade and Investment Officers to:
• Build Pakistan’s image as a reliable rice supplier.
• Identify and establish contacts with FMCG importers/distributors handling international brands.
• Promote Pakistani FMCG brands as an alternative to private labeling, a short-term sales method with buyer flexibility.