LAHORE - The whole business community including Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan has congratulated former LCCI President Shahzad Ali Malik for receiving prestigious Sitara-i-Imtiaz, the third-highest decoration given to any civilian in Pakistan, in recognition of his research work in the field of hybrid technology. Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan has also applauded the decision of President Asif Ali Zardari for his due nomination for Sitar-e-Imtiaz to Ex-Chairman REAP, founder member of this Association. LCCI President Farooq Iftikhar said that Sitara-i-Imtiaz to Shahzad Ali Malik is an ample proof of his relentless efforts he is putting in for keeping the country’s flag high. He said that Shahzad Malik has not only revolutionised rice production through hybridisation but also ensured production surpluses, vastly improving the nation’s food security prospects and making rice, the second best foreign exchange earner, after textiles. Rice exports brought in a whopping $2.2b in exports in last year compared to approximately $500m in 2003-04 when hybridization first took place. He said that Hybrid rice technology effectively doubled the per acre yield of IRRI rice grown in rural Sindh and Balochistan. In Sindh the average yield went up by a significant 33% per acre, while at the same time the area under hybrid rice cultivation expanded by 25%. Increased farmer earnings have improved living standards in rural Sindh and Balochistan, reducing the incomes disparity between rural and urban areas.