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PakRice output seen at 5.4m tonnes
KARACHI: US agriculture authorities and researchers have estimated that Pakistan’s rice production is likely to increase to 5.4 million tons this season lifting exporters’ hopes to achieve $1 billion export target.

In a recent report, the United States Department of Agriculture predicted a 10 percent increase in the country’s rice production over last year's production of 4.9 million metric tons.

“Export volume is expected to rise to 2.4 million metric tons,” said the report based on recently-collected inputs from Pakistan’s agriculture ministry and farmers’ organisations.

“The 2005-06 post forecast for rice production is 5.4 million metric tons based on improvement in productivity and increased acreage using Irri varieties.”

The report credited timely rains and reduced pest activity, which had contributed to enhanced production and was likely to return good profit to both farmers and exporters.

The country in the last fiscal exported around $750 million rice mostly to Europe, Arab states and Far Eastern countries. Inspired by the 2004-05 performance, the exporters are now eyeing $1 billion export in the current season with better rice production and new market access.

Irri-6 and Basmati are the top two varieties, which attract a larger number of buyers. On an average, the country produces around 5 million tons of mainly Irri and Basmati in Sindh and Punjab.

The USDA report appears encouraging for the growers and exporters who estimate almost the same figures for current

season. “During 2005-06, export volume is expected to reach 2.4 million metric tons, consisting of 800,000 metric tons of Basmati and 1.6 million metric tons of Irri rice varieties,” said the USDA report.

But the USDA avoided to comment on foreign exchange expected to be earned by rice exports this season. However, the exporters believe they would manage to touch $1 billion mark during the current fiscal with new varieties and exploring Southeast Asian markets.

“For this season we have set the target of $1 billion,” said Haji Abdul Majeed, chairman of the Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP). “We have designed a strategy under Vision 2010 and by that time we are striving to touch a $2.5-billion export target."

He said the current status of the crop suggested that the country would get more than five million ton rice this season. It included 50 percent share of each Irri and Basmati - the two varieties most exported.

Exporters this season see China as an emerging market for Pakistani rice after it was allowed to enter the neighbouring country the first time in more than five decades of rice-exporting history of Pakistan.

"We would be meeting Chinese importers soon to sign initial deals," said Anwar Miannoor, an exporters and former vice chairman of REAP. "We would also hold rice festivals in different Chinese cities within the next few months before completing other formalities."

He said Pakistan’s rice access to the Chinese market was part of a deal agreed between the two countries during Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz’s visit to China last year and it could double Pakistani rice export figures by the end of 2005-06.

China, world's biggest consumer of rice, agreed to buy rice from Pakistan following consent to include it in the list of about 777 odd items that are being given preferential treatment, during the prime minister’s visit to China last year.

The two countries formally signed a protocol agreement, which allowed Pakistani rice to enter the Chinese market along with textile and other products.
MGR Archive 20.11.2005
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