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Pakistan's rice exports witnessed a hefty growth of 37 percent in the first two months (July-Aug) of current fiscal year (FY20). According to latest exports statistics, Pakistan has exported some 368,503 metric tons rice amounted to $ 212.168 million during July-August of FY20, whereas some 259,871 metric tons worth $ 154.789 million was exported in corresponding period of last fiscal year (FY19), depicting a significant growth of 37 or $57.379 million in terms of values and 42 percent in terms of quantity.

Rice is the single largest commodity, which brings over $ 2 billion foreign exchange annually for the national exchequer and contributing to strengthen the country's economy. Exporters said that the current increase in rice export is attributed to some 42,000 tons export of rice to Africa in July 2019, lower export price compared to other competitors and joint efforts of the Ministry of Commerce and Rice Exporter Association of Pakistan (REAP). "The good thing is that rice exports not only in term of unit are showing improvement, but also in term of value posted massive growth," they added.

Rafique Suleman, Chairman FPCCI Export Committee on Rice and former Chairman REAP, has said that rice exporters are putting their extra ordinary efforts for fetching valuable foreign exchange for the county and they have made huge investment for import of world's latest rice machinery and most modern technology for value addition in rice.

He said that REAP also continued to work on all possible solutions for rice sector to increase the exports and earn more foreign exchange for the country. As a part of these efforts last year REAP organized a Rice Conference in Larkana to identify issues of rice crop and accordingly their solutions to enhance the exports. Since then REAP has close liaison with ministry of commerce and ministry of finance to overcome the challenges being by the rice trade.

Suleman said that Advisor to Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razzak Dawood and his team is taking all the right moves by attending to the multiple PTAs and FTA, of which Indonesia and China have immediately started giving results. On larger scale the results of Ministry of Commerce's efforts will start showing results in next three years. He emphasized that the immediate gain area needs to be worked on war footing is the "Kalar Belt" for reviving basmati heritage. This alone has an export potential of $ 2 billion plus per annum more than what it is today with at a meager $ 750 million. On a positive note, both federal and provincial departments have also given positive response and implementation has already started, he informed.

Chairman FPCCI committee said that Pakistan's private sector is fully supporting the government policies, but needs a fair play for all sectors and correct policy decisions for a long term economic growth. He also urged the federal government for concrete efforts for skilled human resource development for all exporting sectors.

"Export Development Fund (EDF) board should prioritize this area and set up Technical Institutes across the Country for each sector but the management of these institutes should be assigned to full time professionals and the respective sector should only remain in consultative advisory role", he suggested. He asked for the energy supply to rural Agri based small industry and said that this remains the most neglected area by all the governments. From a small rice miller in Gujranwala to Shahdadkot and Larkana, the provision of utilities remains extremely poor.

Suleman informed that REAP is continuously sending trade delegation to various countries to explore new export markets for Pakistani rice. He also urged the government for minimizing the cost of production and research and development to increase the crop yield. REAP has also requested State Bank of Pakistan for allowing Islamic Financing facility for storage of agricultural produce and import of machinery at subsides rates. He mentioned that the pre and post harvest losses in the Agri Value Chain is more than the world best practices and it needs to curtail at lowest level.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019

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