KARACHI - The rice export growth has soared by 226.43 per cent to 235.317 million dollars during July, the first month of current financial year from 72.087 million dollars in the July 2007. Similarly, showing a substantial improvement, the growth in basmati rice has also swelled by 129.77 per cent from 53.817 million dollars to 123.658 million dollars in July, 2008. The growth trajectory of rice export is likely to increase further by the end of this fiscal as the rice exporters are foreseeing 0.5 million tons production of bumper rice crop in 2008-09 which is to some extent will mitigate the weakening trade account portfolio of the country by narrowing the external current account deficit, a key to the macroeconomic sustainability.   It must be noted here that, the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock had estimated production of 5.7 million tons for the FY 2008-09, but the exporters are expecting output around 7 million tons in the forthcoming season. "There will be a strong growth potential of this major export category due to early rains by using better ways to enhance rice yields", representative of the rice exporting body told The Nation.  "Particularly the rise in rice exports was seen due to rising quantum of basmati exports and rising international prices of rice the surge in export quantum of this category implies that exporters are selling larger quantum of this category abroad, taking advantage of the sharp rise in international prices", he  added. The exporter further sated that the faster than usual pace of basmati rice export has led to relatively earlier depletion in its export surplus this year compared to previous years, if the share of basmati rice exports in total production stays at the average level of last three years. Besides this, the growth witnessed during the period was based on fundamentals sharp rise in international rice prices that offered strong incentives to exporters, along with the availability of exportable surplus in domestic market, unlike the shortages in some of the competitor countries. On the other hand, evidence also suggests possibility of rice smuggling to Iran, as domestic banks are not accepting letters of credit from Iranian banks for imports because of the shortage of dollars in that market. According to the official trade figures released by FBS, the imports growth increased by 38 percent during July, the first month of FY09, accelerating the overall trade deficit by 49.19 percent, to 1.644 billion dollars from 1.102 billion dollars in the corresponding month FY08. While the growth in export business increased by 29.48 percent rose to 1.905 billion dollars during the period under review.