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'Government-Reap apathy may hamper rice export to European Union'
LAHORE , The federal government and the Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (Reap) are seemed to be total indifferent to what was happening at the front of the European Union (EU), which could hamper the Pakistani rice export to this traditional market.
This was stated by former Reap chairman and Guard Rice Chief Executive Shahzad Ali Malik while addressing a press conference here on Saturday.
He said the European Union has decided to stop giving duty-free access to Basmati from Pakistan and India, adding the EU will hold a dialogue with both countries on the compensation that it will pay for their loss of export.
He said in the financial year 2002-03 Pakistan had exported 76,000 tonnes of brown rice to EU, while the Indian exports of the same stood at 144,400 tonnes.
The former Reap chief said some exporters fear that if EU clamped this decision to stop giving duty-free access to Pakistan rice, its rice exports would come down to zero, adding the EU is going to finalise its course of action after this step in the month of August, and will be enforcing the new law barricading duty-free access to any rice from September 2003.
Malik said the reason behind this decision is that traditional Basmati rice has almost edged out the local offering, adding the EU has been giving Basamati zero duty access since 1995.
This allows it to compete better with local grown subsidised rice.
However, as this access has shattered the market of locally grown rice, the EU as part of its agriculture reforms package unveiled last week, has decided to impose fresh barriers on this premium rice, he maintained.
Pakistan Rice Board Member Zahid Khawaja, on this occasion, said a part of reforms, the EU council has authorised European Commission to begin negotiations with all its trading partners for rice, including US, India, Pakistan and Thailand to end commitments on market access made to them under Head Note 7 of the WTO.
Quoting an Indian newsman, he said India has chalked out its strategy to sustain its hold in this premium market, and is planning to either negotiate a fresh fixed quantity at zero duty or ask the EU for a separate zero-duty status only for the more expensive traditional Basmati.
He said Pakistani rice exporters will also be fighting on another front, and that is the claim being made by Indian circles that it is the sloe producer of traditional Basmati, adding this claim in not true and as a matter of fact, 70 percent of traditional Basmati rice is grown in Pakistan.
Criticising the government attitude, Zahid Khawaja said it was playing the role of a silent spectator.
He proposed to the government to get conducted DNA test of Basmati to prove that "we are the sole producer of traditional Basmati to keep our presence in he premium EU market."
He also suggested that the government, which is now emphasising on branding, should go for this test to establish Basmati as a brand of Pakistan, saying Pakistan also needs to start lobbying and prepare a strategy with collaboration of rice exporters.
MGR Archive 14.7.2003
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