"Unquestionably hybrid rice is a model of China-Pakistan agricultural cooperation in Sindh Province," Mr. Zhou Xusheng, Director of Pakistan Business Department, Wuhan Qingfa Hesheng Seed Co., Ltd. a Chinese developer and provider of hybrid seeds, told the reporter of China Economic Net (CEN).
Amidst global headwinds, Pakistani rice is facing a series of challenges. Chela Ram Kewlani, President of the Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP), indicated that during the first seven months of the FY 2022/23, the export value of Pakistani rice decreased by 15.82% year-on-year to USD 1.08 billion, mainly due to flood damage to paddy fields in Sindh, where the local rice production has been reduced by 40%.
Qingfa Hesheng has been providing hybrid seeds of rice, canola and vegetables to Pakistan for nearly twenty years, as well as training more than 300 local agricultural personnel. In particular, it registered the first hybrid rice variety -QY0413 in the history of Pakistan.
“It may take three years for the rice export, which is an important means for Pakistan to earn foreign exchange, to recover,” Zhou noted, “however, we have prepared for such situations. First, the stress resistance of crop varieties should be improved. Second, seed production can be carried out separately in Pakistan and China, spreading risk in the face of extreme weather. Currently, our test fields are located in Lahore, Chiniot, Shikarpur, and Golarchi.”
“Except for floods, extremely high temperatures brought about by climate change are also difficulties that must be overcome in the upgrading of Pakistan’s rice industry. The annual average temperature here is much higher than that in China’s main rice climate zone. Therefore, in our selection of rice varieties, it is imperative to guarantee the seed setting rate and quality under high temperatures. Nevertheless, a coin has two sides. It is precise because of the hot and dry climate in Pakistan that hybrid rice diseases are much less than those in China, such as bacterial blight, but far less hazardous.”
Data from PBS showed that exports of basmati rice fell 22.95% to 316,055 tonnes in the first seven months of this year from 410,207 tonnes in the same period last year, while exports of non-basmati rice fell 25% to 1.62 million tons. Despite a sharp drop in exports, rice prices have seen unprecedented increases in the domestic market due to inflation and rising international rice prices. In this regard, Zhou put forward his viewpoint.
“Affected by currency depreciation and inflation, the cancellation of natural gas subsidies means that fertilizer prices have risen, and even supply shortages. Various expenses have pushed up the purchase price of basmati rice. On the other hand, the main purpose of non-basmati rice is to export foreign exchange, and the three leading rice enterprises account for more than 50% of non-basmati exports. Rising costs have led to a decline in the competitiveness of non-basmati rice in the international market, so orders have dropped significantly.”
The soaring price of rice has greatly stimulated the enthusiasm of local farmers to plant hybrid rice, but expensive fertilizers and gasoline and diesel has pushed up the cost simultaneously. “For us, in order to make the hybrid rice business go further in Pakistan, ensure local food security, and further increase Pakistan’s foreign exchange, help the local establish relevant downstream industrial chains, lower the cost to improve the competitiveness and added value of its agricultural products, and further expand employment is is our top priority.”