By Zoha Marjaan
LARKANA: Stakeholders in rice industry have agreed to adopt latest technology to increase quantity, quality and exports of rice.
Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP) hosted a two-day thought provoking conference ‘REAP Rice Conference 2018’ on Monday and Tuesday (Nov 26-27) in a local hall in Larkana with the support of stakeholders including Sindh Chamber of Agriculture, Sindh Abadgar Board, Sindh and Balochistan Rice Millers and Traders Association.
Larkana division is centre for non-basmati rice production in the country.
Stakeholders were of the view that by adopting latest measures being practiced in the neighboring countries; India and Bangladesh, the country would be able to save water and increase the production.
They said at least 20 percent crop is lost during the poor post harvesting process. Water can be saved by 50 percent by leveling the land through Razor leveling, they said.
The conference conducted four various sessions on farming, pesticide usage, milling and exports during the two days besides discussing all important aspects started from sowing to exports.
They said that Pakistan’s rice exports struggled around $2 billion since a decade, which needed measures to improve seed, harvesting, milling and exports. Pakistan’s total rice production was around 741 million tons, of which 52 percent production was exported.
Qabool Muhammad Khatian, chairman Sindh Chamber of Agriculture, said that rice prices improved during last one and half years, however, cost was increasing every year. “Water crisis are increasing, until farmers go for razor leveling of their lands, water crisis will not be controlled,” he said.
He said that the country needed to make exportable items like China was developing the exportable items.
Khatian said that the province witnessed acute water shortage this year, as rice needed water for 120 days, which was available for 60 days only.
“Millers have to upgrade their mills to decrease quantity of the broken rice. Half of the mills are using old machines. They should take benefit from subsidy provided by the State Bank of Pakistan with collaboration of Sindh Board of Investment,” he said.
Chairman REAP Safder Hussain Mehkri said that farm expertise had nothing to do with exports but they took initiative to increase the production. “We are appealing you for the cooperation towards the direction and good practices and creation of value in supply chain. There should be joint focus,” he said.
He suggested developing a model farm by next year to address these issues. “Several efforts (for the increase in the production of rice) are going through isolation in Pakistan,” he said.
Panelists discussed that hybrid seeds had improved the production but farmers had reservations, as nobody was sure about the certification of the seed. They were of the view that some indigenous seeds gave higher production and they could further be improved.
Farmers and millers pointed out that commercial banks were not co-operating with them and had refused to provide loans for new products.
Dr Umair, who had worked for International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Philippines, said that rainfall was decreasing in Pakistan while it would further go down in next 20 to 30 years. He was of the view that Pakistan needed to increase its production in order to coup up with growing population. “Sindh has more contribution in rice consumption and exports. However, it is more vulnerable to climate change as compared to Punjab,” he said.
He informed that area in production was being increased by four percent a year since 1947 to 2018 while production increased a mere 13 percent, he said.
Umair said the poor quality seeds were in circulation, certified seeds were not available in many areas while soil fertility was decreasing.
He said that by practicing sustainable rice cultivation methods, the country could reduce water requirement by 40 to 60 percent. “World is moving towards satellite based monitoring. Mechanized harvesting is needed but our crop pattern is not ready for it,” he said.
Conference was attended by the stakeholders in a large number.