Lahore (Muhammad Yasir) Rice exporters while participating in the 19th meeting of the Rice Research & Development Board (RR&DB) Punjab has urged the Government for establishing a strong banking linkage with Iran such as Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for barter trade of goods to increase rice export to Iran. Exporters said Iran is a big market of Basmati rice but absence of banking channel between Pakistan and Iran is the only hurdle to export rice to it. Iran import 50 per cent of the total domestic rice requirement and Pakistan can give a big push to its exports by entering in to this market.

Similarly, the members proposed that the government should offer subsidy on freight charges to capture new rice export markets, while competent service providers may be stimulated in rice area for promoting mechanized farming. The meeting was presided over by the Board Chairman Shahzad Ali Malik (SI), CEO of the GUARD agriculture and research services while scientists, representatives of the Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan and progressive farmers attended the meeting. Agenda was planning for the current rice season and strategies to explore new global markets to stabilize paddy/rice prices. Chief Scientists Kala Shah Kaku Research Institute and Secretary to the Board, Ch. Muhammad Rafiq briefed the participants on current rice season and export scenario of Pakistan. He informed the house that there was an increase in Basmati export from 660,000 tons (2018-19) to 890,000 tons (2019-20) and farmers earned a handsome income from the rice crop during 2020. ‘Unfortunately, in current year 2020-21, Basmati export volume is on declining trend (30% less than the last year) and there is a significant carry-over stock (about 150,000 tons) of previous year with the millers/exporters. Regarding strategies to explore new global markets, Samee Ullah Naeem from Atlas Rice and former Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP) spoke about new rice export potential markets, freight subsidy issues, global food safety campaigns, accredited Lab scope, pesticide awareness and Good Agricultural Practices (GAP).

He added that growers have got good production of basmati rice this year due to increase in cultivation area and additional per acre yield but availability of carry over stock from the last season, exporters will be cautious for purchasing rice this year. He pointed out that 07 alerts of different pesticide residue were detected in Pakistani rice out of 1,033 samples in 2020, which can be raised if measures are not taken timely. Chaudhry Rafiq informed the house that one latest machine to analyze rice for pesticide residue is functional now which had been purchased under National Agricultural Emergency Program. Rashid Ahmad (Crop life Pakistan) and Masood Akhtar Malik (progressive farmer) endorsed that measures should be taken to avoid any adverse situation. MRLs issues should be highlighted at each rice forum to sensitize this issue. Farmers should be given comprehensive training on integrated pest management and GAP. Chairman of the Board, Shahzad Ali Malik appreciated the research endeavours of the Rice Research Institute (RRI-KSK) Kala Shah Kaku. Members also proposed for initiating consumer awareness program globally to highlight the food safety and pesticides residue issues.