LAHORE - A 16-member delegation of Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP) has left for Iran to explore trade and investment opportunities in general and enhance rice export to the neighbouring country in particular.

The delegation, led by REAP chairman Ch Samee Ullah Naeem, will visit Tehran as well as the city of Mashhad where it will have meetings with representatives of Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Mines and Mashhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Delegation will conclude meetings with Ministry of Health regarding GMP issues, Ministry of Commerce, GTC for buying Pakistani rice through government tenders. The delegation will be also participating in lunch arranged by Irani Rice Importers Association.

The deliberations are aimed at increasing bilateral trade and investment between the two friendly countries.

The chairman said the REAP would discuss the issues related to the resumption of rice exports, which nosedived after sanctions, from Pakistan, implementation of currency swap agreement and the condition of good manufacturing practices (GMP) certification with Iranian authorities. He said that Iran used to be 800,000 tons basmati rice market until sanctions were imposed in 2010 and exports have drastically reduced to barely 60,000 tons only. REAP considers unavailability of banking channel the only barrier for drop in trade, he added.

These dialogues between the leading businessmen and industrialists are meant to inspire the Iranian importers as well as investors to explore the healthy business opportunities in Pakistan, and foster new profitable ventures. The REAP members will invite the Iranians to visit Pakistan, where Association could arrange fruitful B2B meetings with progressive business groups, to seek fresh collaborative ventures. The Pakistan exporters’ team will also hold meetings with Government Trading Corporation (GTC) of Iran, besides meeting with Health Ministry to raise the issue of GMP certification for Pakistani rice exporters, which presently has become a major hurdle in the way of rice export to Iran. The Iranian health ministry has set health standards for the rice import and only those who are registered under its GMP certification programme can export rice to the country.

REAP chairman, talking to The Nation, said that Pakistan team will also convince the GTC to announce tenders for super basmati and long grain 386 rice so that REAP members could avail the facility to book export orders for Iran.

With a view to enhance liaison between the businessmen of two countries, the REAP members’ group will hold B2B meetings with Rice Importers Association of Iran. The REAP chairman will also call on the Pakistan commercial counsel in Mashhad. REAP chairman hoped that visit of the delegation will not only bring Pakistani and Iranian businessmen closer but would also open doors for boosting the rice export to Iran which is going to be a great market for Pakistan.

“I hope that the country would regain its share in the Iranian market, which can become the good destination for their basmati exports,” he said. “Iran is one of the largest rice importers and purchases rice worth $2 billion every year. However, Pakistan’s rice accounts for nearly an eight percent of Iran’s market,” he said.