LAHORE  -  The Pakistan Rice Exporters Association (REAP) has hailed the economic agenda of the new government, asking it to declare the rice sector as an industry and provide it all incentives in line with other five zero rated export sectors.

REAP central chairman Ch Samee Ullah Naeem said that the new government will need a competent team to address the economic issues, as the economic problems are due to lower exports. He asked the new government to take measures to enhance exports and make strong policies for industrialization in the country.

He said this step to declare rice sector an industry would benefit with 30 percent higher exports by saving post-harvest losses and increasing exports to high-valued destinations by 30 percent.

REAP chairman said that government's support and investment in holding foreign exhibitions should be made a policy to brand Pakistani basmati rice the world over.

He said the second largest export-oriented sector of rice, with its more than $2 billion annual export, is still striving for its recognition as an industry. The fragmentation in supply chain partners, including farmers, millers and exporters poses a bigger challenge. The issue at farm levels poses threat for export destinations while the local millers that handle 70 percent of paddy, are ignorant of good milling and storage practices which deteriorates the grain quality, resulting in lower export, he said.

REAP chairman observed that the competing countries, including Thailand, India, USA, Brazil, had recognised their rice sector as an industry that benefitted with the formulation of policies to increase yields at farm levels and improvement the quality for exports.

He said that REAP is hopeful that country will progress rapidly in changed political culture and will put the country on the path of progress and prosperity, he added.

He also recommended that

export emergency should be declared in the country to control the decline in the export sector.

He said that high cost of doing business, issues of market access and

inconsistent exchange rate are hindering the Pakistan exports growth and the government will have to work on it in consultation with the stakeholders to resolve the problems.

Ch Samee Ullah said that the current fragmentation of sector is a barrier to development. He said that declaration of rice sector as an industry would help in the formation of consolidated policy that will help in the integration of all supply chain stakeholders into one chain.

He said that the rice sector has all parameters to fall into “food industry” wherein the purpose is to raise crop yields through mechanised farming and to improve sanitary and phytosanitary standards for its marketing into developed high revenue economies.

He said the value-addition of rice ranges from 100 percent to 140 percent. The paddy of basmati is procured at $450/ metric ton while it is exported at around $1000 PMT. The long grain paddy is procured at $200 PMT and is exported at $400 PMT. He said that Pakistan's share in overall basmati export has gradually decreased compared to India, mainly due to the bigger crop size in the neighboring country, and government support to farmers to keep growing the variety while focusing on crop yield with subsidized inputs.

Samee Ullah said that India is more organised, while in Pakistan individual millers try but remain inconsistent either due to lower international prices, product quality and lack of support from the government to establish brand image.

He believed that a diverse product range, including the export of rice, would help Pakistan tap international markets and increase its foreign exchange earnings.

He said that REAP is the main stakeholder of the rice sector. And

rice industry is playing a pivotal role in foreign exchange earnings and generating large employment in the whole agriculture chain.

He underlined the need for good marketing techniques to dig-out large number of foreign buyers for Pakistani products which are best of best quality in the world but are struggling due to lack of proper marketing. He urged the Pakistan’s Foreign Missions abroad to establish Display Centers for Pakistani goods besides organizing single country exhibitions for Pakistan products to secure due place in the global market.