LAHORE     -   Introduction of mechanisation in rice sector such as transplanters, laser land levelling and Kabuta harvesters can help increasing farm yields and saving pre & post harvest losses, said rice exporters who are promoting technology for ensuring availability of more exportable surplus. They believe that extra yields would fetch precious foreign exchange besides ensuring food security and increasing profit of growers. Manually around 50,000-60,000 plants of rice are sown in an acre in the country while using a transplanter can take this number to 100,000 plants. By this way, Pakistan can increase basmati rice production by another 20 per cent without bringing more land under rice cultivation.

Similarly, laser land leveling can save 30 per cent of water in rice cultivation besides reducing input cost on fertilizers, pesticides and other nutrients. This will bring down the cost of sowing and as such will add to the profits of the growers, said Samee Ullah Naeem Chaudhry, former Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP) President and CEO Atlas Foods while talking to a delegation of the Agriculture Journalists Association (AJA) here on Friday. He said that using rice harvesters can help controlling the post-harvest losses which account 10 percent of the total crop at present.

‘Use of Kabuta harvester is being encouraged all over the world unlike in Pakistan where mostly the wheat harvesters are used. Wheat harvesters produce more broken paddy which is a big loss. For example, one percent of additional damage to paddy reduce export price by $10 to a ton and you can multiply this to millions of tons”, said leading exporter of basmati rice to the Europe, adding, ‘It is policy of the REAP to preserve what we grow and grow more-export more.

In Pakistan, paddy is mostly sun dried that increases yellow kernels due heat damage and produces fungus that risks generation of mycotoxins, a carcinogenic and genotoxic material. ‘Less than 10 percent of paddy harvest is mechanically dried and we need to incentivise industry that uses mechanical dryers. Almost 10% of the crop is damaged due lack of drying facility and by this interception, we can have surplus grain worth 250 million US dollars to export’, he said. ‘The unavailability of low markup funds is impediment for rice exports. If funds aren't available on priority, we will lose out our competitiveness and will miss the target of 2.5 billion US dollar this year.

‘Demand driven research is the only workable solution as proven elsewhere in the world many times. We still follow the process of research in isolation whether in the public or private sector, federal or provincial or between traditional rice breeder or molecular scientist’, he said. ‘If all these issues are handled on priority, we may be able to double exports to 5 billion US dollars in next three years. Atlas Foods is a well known name in rice export around the world. Since last year, Atlas Foods in collaboration with Ebro Foods (Spain) is successfully desiminating the standards of Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP) in Punjab and Sindh. SRP is a global multi-stakeholder alliance launched in 2011 and led by UN, IRRI and GIZ comprising 120 institutional stakeholders. Atlas Foods and Ebro Foods are practically implementing the principles of SRP with the help of farmers. Initially work has been started with 250 farmers in tehsil kamoki (district Gujranwala) and tehsil Khanpur (district Shikarpur). In this project practical training is being given to the farmers by making learning groups (LG's). This will not only reduce the cost of production but also increase the per acre yield of rice crop.