lahore - Public sector institutes like Rice Research Institutes of Kala Shah Kaku and Dokri have failed to develop new successful and popular hybrid rice varieties during the last several decades of their existence.

As a result the basmati export is decreasing day by day. For instance, basmati rice export has down by almost 60 per cent in the first half of the current fiscal year from 403,000 tons in the corresponding period last year to 160,000 tons this year. Similarly, the export of non-basmati varieties also fell by 62 per cent in the same period: from 531,000 tons in 2011 to 333,000 tons in 2012. The fear is that the last quarter would prove even harder because the factors that brought down these exports not only continue to exist but are worsening.

Experts said that massive electricity loadshedding and gas management has hit its business like never before. As per estimates, power loadshedding has reduced the milling capacity by 50 per cent. Gas management has been exceptionally delayed drying process. Both of them have very badly affected the entire chain — drying, husking and milling — up to 50 per cent, making it hard for them to meet export orders even when they have them.

Two other factors are high domestic prices and loss of Iranian market, which was the biggest for Pakistani rice. They say that as long as Pakistani rice maintains a price of $200 per ton less than its Indian competitor, it keeps its share in the world market. Once the gap closes, the consumer preference shifts to Indian rice. That is what has been happening this year.

In Pakistan the national yield per hectare of rice is still 2.387 Mt/ha, which is one of the lowest in the world.

As pointed out by REAP in the past, after introduction of IRRI-6 of Philippines, in the country, the variety has now almost been degenerated.

“The need of the hour is that the private sector should be encouraged in the introduction of new rice technologies in the country, especially hybrid rice,’ said the Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP) vice chairman Samee Ullah Ch. The association has appreciated the fact that cultivation of hybrid rice has been instrumental in increasing the per-acre-yield of rice in the country and increasing the exportable surplus.

The REAP has urged the federal and provincial governments to extend their full support to the private sector, in the promotion of hybrid rice cultivation in the country and also ensure the participation of private sector in management and control of the public sector rice research institutes. He said that currently, hybrid rice is cultivated on an area of approximately 500,000 acres in the country. In Sindh, hybrid rice is cultivated on vast areas of land in Larkana, Jacobabad, Kandhkot, Shikarpur, Thul, Kashmore, Badin, Tando Muhammad Khan, Golarchi, Suajawal and Thatta etc.; in Balochistan, hybrid rice is cultivated in the vast areas of Jafferabad, Nasirabad and Usta Muhammad etc.; in Punjab, it is being cultivated in the areas of Multan, Sadiqabad, Rahim Yar Khan, Dera Ghazi Khan and Bhawalpur etc.