LAHORE (ZAHID CHUGHTAI)
Guard Agricultural Research & Services (Pvt) Ltd., Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Shahzad Ali Malik has announced the launching of the “Shafi Malik Plant Breeders” award with a cash reward of Rs 30 million for the agricultural scientists developing a high-yielding seed. The award is announced for the breeders of wheat, cotton and rice crops and winners will share Rs 10 million each. The product must exhibit acceptance among farmers, millers and the market and perform as per its traits for consecutive three years, the announcement said. Malik’s company has the credit of introducing rice hybrid in the country, and will bear the funds for these awards. The award will go to the individuals and not to any organization irrespective of the affiliation of the breeder with the private or public sector. Announcing the initiation of the award at a media conference at his office, Shahzad Ali Malik (SI) who is also Chairman of Rice Research & Development Board Punjab said the award was being issued to support the most ignored segment in the agricultural value chain i.e., “breeders” which could bring about a revolution in the sector by evolving new high yielding seed varieties with resistance against different diseases and climatic changes. The Company’s senior Executive Seed Division Momin Ali Malik, GM (Agriculture) Rizwan Younis and senior officials of the company were also present on this occasion. Malik said we direly need to grow more to feed our ever-increasing population and make an available surplus for export more to fetch much-needed foreign exchange. He quoted a survey in the media which claimed that the availability of land per capita was also decreasing in Pakistan. So we need to grow more per acre instead of increasing the area under any specific crop, he observed. He highlighted that out of five major field crops Rice, Maize, Cotton, Wheat and Sugar Cane, only two crops, Rice and Maize performed well due to high-yield varieties with the main contribution by the Private Sector. He said both crops helped Pakistan achieve local demand, export earnings and import substitution. Maize was seeing phenomenal growth due to contributions by foreign companies while rice’s success story was due to efforts by the national companies including his own company which paved the way for hybrid rice seed in the country. He said the Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan “REAP” took the lead and approved an incentive of Rs. 10 million for the rice breeders in 2021 and the new award will be in addition to that. Malik urged the All Pakistan Textiles Mills Association “APTMA” and Pakistan Flour Mills Association “PFMA” to also come forward and announce lucrative incentives for breeders of Cotton and Wheat. Likewise, the Government should also encourage Plant Breeders with lucrative awards and suggested that at the government level cash award should be 50 million. Pakistan is currently importing cotton, wheat, edible oil, pulses and other agro-commodities to the tune of approximately 14-15 billion dollars annually. The introduction of higher-yielding varieties in these crops through incentivizing breeders would result in import substitution and help in substantially reducing the trade deficit. GUARD’s Research & Development Chief Dr. Abdur Rasheed and Chinese company Yuan Longping representative Mr. Long also threw light on efforts being made by them for evolving new high-yielding extra long-grain and basmati varieties with resistance to diseases, drought and heat. They said the government had approved two varieties recently which 30 per cent more yield than the traditional varieties and elongation of 8.2 mm. They said they were also working on Basmati hybrid and Cotton hybrid with different Chinese agricultural organizations.