Karachi: Rice exporters on Thursday came hard on a Prime Minister’s aide for underestimating the export potential of Pakistani basmati that fetches the country more than $800 million.
Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP) said the statement regarding no demand of basmati rice in the world is misleading, as Pakistan exports basmati worth more than $800 million every year.
REAP expressed serious concern over a public statement by Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Agriculture Jamshed Cheema that demand in export markets is mostly for coarse rice while the Pakistani farmers are intoxicated with basmati rice and should shift to production of coarse rice.
The aide said basmati rice should only be produced for local consumption. “The statement of the special assistant is patently false and misleading,” Qayum Paracha, chairman of REAP said in a statement.
“REAP would like to apprise that basmati is sown in Punjab since 17th century and due to its unique aroma, our basmati rice acts as Pakistan’s ambassador globally,” Paracha said.
Pakistan’s current basmati rice exports are around $800 million per annum out of total $2.3 billion rice exported per annum. Hundreds of thousands of people in the whole supply chain of basmati rice from farmers, millers and work force to exporters and brand owners are dependent on the crop, he added.
REAP has announced a reward of Rs10 million to any rice breeder, government or private sector, who comes up with high productivity basmati rice new seed.
“Instead of encouraging research and yield increase in basmati crop which has a potential of more than $3 billion export annually, Cheema is discouraging sowing of this heritage product,” he said. “Such irresponsible statements by people sitting on highest echelons of Pakistan will jeopardize our case in European Union. Such damaging stance by a high official of the government negates all our efforts to safeguard our heritage since centuries in basmati rice besides billions invested in rice mills, export market brand equity.”
In March, the European Union accepted the reasons of Pakistani rice exporters for why India should not be given exclusive rights to export basmati.
REAP had filed the statement in opposition to India’s claim of geographical indication of basmati on February 5 after sending the notice of opposition on December 7 last.
Pakistan has been challenging India’s bid to obtain exclusive rights of exporting basmati rice to the 27-member European Union since last year. India is the world’s biggest basmati exporter and meets 65 percent of the global demand for the aromatic rice. Pakistan meets the remaining requirement.