KARACHI - Union of Small and Medium Enterprises (UNISAME) has invited the attention of the ministries of commerce, industry, science and technology and agriculture to the urgent need to join hands for the modernization of rice farming, milling, processing and marketing and to enable it to meet the global challenges.

President UNISAME Zulfikar Thaver said it is very unfortunate that rice industry which is ranked as the second biggest after textiles is left mercilessly neglected. Regardless of the fact that it employs huge number of entrepreneurs from farm land to factories. The SME rice farmers, millers, processors, traders and exporters are in turmoil due to the step motherly treatment of the government. The cost of production has gone high and this has made the rice industry noncompetitive. The farm inputs have become costly. The only answer to survival is value addition, quality bench mark and entering non traditional markets, he stressed.

Thaver has urged the ministries of agriculture, commerce, industry, science and technology to work in coordination for the uplift of rice sector.

UNISAME after carrying out a study of the requirements for the uplift of the sector stated that dedicated efforts are required from grass root level to modernization of farming, milling, processing, packing and marketing, for the boost of rice sector.

The union called upon the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority (SMEDA) under the ministry of industries and the Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (PCSIR) under the ministry of science and technology to join hands for modernization of the rice industry.

It also requested SMEDA and PCSIR to take up the issues of paddy drying, parboiling, steaming and preparation of iron and vitaminized rice and also pre-cooked rice. Various products can be made from rice flour and rice grains if PCSIR could educate the sector on increasing shelf life of the products. PCSIR is capable of doing great work for the sector, Thaver said.

The Rice Research Institute under the ministry of agriculture also needs to do more and develop new varieties. We have only a handful of varieties whereas our neighbour India has many varieties to compete in the global markets.

He suggested that the ministry of commerce needs to intervene in the basmati Geographical Indication (GI) matter and also the basmati trade mark issue and resolve the matter with the Intellectual Property Organization and the Registrar of Trade Marks in national interest.

Another very important aspect is the marketing; we have lost the markets of Iran, Gulf and Middle East. Though we have never really entered Europe and USA, there is scope as our super basmati rice is far superior to the 1121 non basmati rice of India. The Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) and Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP) will need to make great efforts to popularise our super basmati rice which is tasty, aromatic and cooks exceedingly well and is undoubtedly the best rice in the world.

He said now with the re-entry of Iran in the SWIFT international currency exchange the possibilities look bright nevertheless Pakistan will have to re-enter the Iranian market with diligence to promote our super basmati rice.