Rice is the second major crop having a contribution to GDP of 0.6% and 3% in the agricultural value-added sector in Pakistan. Although rice is not the staple food and exported and earns around $2 billion foreign exchange each year for Pakistan.
Still, the commodity is not included in the priority list of policymakers. Punjab produces 97% of fine aromatic rice.
Rice growers criticize the high fertilizer prices, shortage of canal water, the high price of farm inputs, high charges of agricultural machinery, and a lack of facilities for consultancy and finance during the crop production stage.
Furthermore, they complained about the research institutes have failed to develop new varieties of basmati with better yield and pest resistance against attacks and climate change.
Chaudhry Nisar Ahmad, the central president of Kissan Board Pakistan said that same super kernel basmati variety sown by farmers for the last over two and a half decades. The seed has lost productivity and insect resistance.
The introduction of hybrid varieties of rice having better yield and pest resistance can help farmers to earn more and reduce the production cost he said. He lamented that in near future there is no evidence for Pakistan to develop a new variety.
Investors pointed out that the government is ready to spend on compensations or reliefs but is not developing new seed varieties to help farmers to be independent.
Budget has Rs8.74 million has been assigned to the establishment of laboratory and equipment for the Rice Research Institute in Kala Shah Kaku to develop hybrid basmati rice with traits of bacterial resistant to leaf blight disease along with flood and salinity.
The project has estimated the cost of over Rs44m in 2015 and was allocated Rs8.84m in the same year while Rs12.86m in 2016. The completion of the project will take at least 2 or more years as shown in the budget it will be completed in June 2019 to sum cost of Rs5.66m.
Captivatingly, the federal government allocated Rs20bn in 2016-17 for rice farmers at a rate of Rs5,000 per acre to help them in a financial crunch triggered by falling global prices.
Pakistan Kissan Ittehad President Khalid Mahmood Khokhar regrets that the government is not giving sufficient funds for research work to develop new seed varieties to increase farm yields and ensure a better return to the farmers.
Shahzad Ahmad Malik, CEO of the Guard Agricultural Research Services, said that the firm will introduce open pollen variety first while in the 2019 season it will provide a hybrid variety of the rice.
He claimed that new varieties will yield 3,200kg per acre with the length of grain 8mm plus have the highest demand in the international market.
The main competitor of Pakistani basmati rice is India on the world market has developed 8mm-long rice grain variety.
“We are finalizing formalities for the registration of the new seed in the Pakistan Agriculture Research Council now,” he added.
An official from the agriculture department acknowledges government’s poor performance in providing seeds of various crops to growers.
He added that government fulfills 30% of the seed needs and a similar contribution of the private sector, while the rest is taken care by the farmers who save seed from the previous crop to use in the next time of year.
“The lack of uniformity as the seed is not coming into the market from a single source is due to the absence of an effective quality monitoring system.” he adds.