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Pakistan rice exporters confident about exceeding official target
DUBAI — Private sector rice exporters in Pakistan are confident about surpassing the rice export target of $1billion for the fiscal year 2005-6, according to Ayaz Mahmood, director of Abid Group of Companies.

A project of Abid Group is Fort Rice Mills, which is located in the centre of Punjab's rice growing area, and is a leading processor and exporter of rice from Pakistan. It supplies its entire production of super basmati to Dubai most of which is re-exported mainly to Iran.

Ayaz said in an interview with Khaleej Times during a visit to Dubai, that during the previous fiscal year, July 2004 to June 2005, rice exports had earned Pakistan $850 million, thus exceeding the export target of $726 million. In terms of quantity, 700,000 metric tonnes of basmati and 1.2 million metric tonnes of course rice were exported during the year, he said.

"We are confident of exporting more than the target in the current year because there has been a 23 per cent increase in price internationally, while new export markets are being explored by the Pakistani exporters at the same time. For instance, China has opened up its market for Pakistani rice and is expected to import at least 100,000 metric tonnes," said Ayaz, who has been actively involved with the industry body, Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP).

He said that Japan, a tough quality-conscious market, and Mexico are also among the new markets for Pakistani basmati rice. Basmati rice has been exported to Sri Lanka, another new market, and the exporter was awarded a shield for supplying the best rice, he said.

Anwar Mian Noor, vice chairman of REAP, said on telephone from Pakistan during the interview, that the acceptance of Pakistan's basmati rice in the world markets is high because of its exquisite aroma, taste, and long healthy grain. "Basmati is the heritage of Pakistan. We are able to fetch upto $600 per metric tonne C&F for our basmati in the Middle East and upto $1,000 per metric tonne C&F in Europe and North America," he added.

Ayaz continued that the mixing of Pakistani basmati rice with other inferior varieties of rice in international markets has been controlled as a result of active interest taken by REAP with the cooperation of Pakistani and foreign governments. Each bag of Pakistani basmati rice is sealed, has a REAP number, and is stamped "Product of Pakistan", he said.

REAP is the second largest industry association after the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry. REAP has recently introduced a new variety of rice, PK198. Rice exports are handled entirely by the private sector in Pakistan.

Ayaz said that the rice market in Pakistan was slow at present, but better than last season, since it is waiting for the new crop in October-November this year. He said that the government does not fix the price of paddy and the growers have to depend on the market forces.

He said that the farmers had received $575 per metric tonne on an average for the last crop of basmati and it is expected that the procurement price would be $25 to $30 higher per metric tonne in the forthcoming season.

The super basmati grain, cultivated in Punjab, is extra long at 7 mm to 7.2 mm while the non-basmati grain, cultivated in the Sindh province, is 6.8 mm long. There are some 350 rice processing plants in Pakistan, 100 of them being major ones equipped with latest Japanese, Chinese and German machinery and equipment, Ayaz said.

Ayaz said that the Fort Rice Mills, an ISO 9001 and HASSAP certified company, was established with a vision to serve customers with a complete assortment of quality rice at competitive prices. The mills' location at Muridke, Sheikhupura, in Punjab, which cultivates the world's best rice, gives it an edge to select quality rice for processing and exporting.

"Our professionals understand rice from tillage to its refined form and this has helped us attain superiority," he said.

The mills produces 240 metric tonnes of rice per day round the clock and the year round. The production lines are equipped with Japanese and Chinese machinery, including a 120-channel colour sorter. Consistency in quality is maintained at all stages and through laboratory tests. Fort Rice cleans its rice several times during the processing by highly automated system, untouched by human hands.

The rice varieties offered by Fort Rice include Super Basmati, Basmati-385, 386, IRRI-9, IRRI-6, Brown Rice and Par Boiled Rice. The mills exported one million metric tonnes of super basmati in three years.

Fort Rice started its operations in Dubai in 2003 under the name, Fort Rice LLC. In 2004-5, its exports of basmati rice to Dubai in bags of 5 and 39 kg were valued at $2.2 million. This calender year, it has exported 4 to 5,000 metric tonnes to Dubai. The mills also does branding for other companies.

"We are now planning to introduce own brand Fort Basmati Rice in Dubai's retail market in the next three months," Ayaz said.
MGR Archive 8.8.2005
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