Pakistan being an agro-based economy has natural abundance of all agricultural products including food items. Rice is the third largest crop after wheat and cotton.
It is grown over 10% of the total cropped area. Rice is highly valued cash crop and is also major export item. It accounts for 6.7% in value added in agriculture and 1.6% in GDP. Pakistan grows enough high quality rice to meet both domestic demand and allow for exports of around one million ton per annum.
Different varieties of rice are grown in Pakistan for example Super Basmati, Basmati PK-385, Irri-6, Irri-9 and KS-282 etc. Pakistan is primarily known for its aromatic rice (Super Basmati/Basmati PK-385).
Two varieties of rice dominate the market: Basmati, which is mainly grown in Punjab and Irri, which is mainly grown in Punjab and Sindh. Basmati accounts for 2% of exports and is of a higher quality than Irri. In 1987-88, the government allowed rice export also by the private sector. Before this, the Rice Export Corporation of Pakistan (RECP) was exclusively handling rice export of Pakistan.
Before the private sector was allowed rice export, RECP was the sole rice procurement agency in the country while Passco procured very small quantities and the rest was obtained by the private sector for local consumption. The private sector rice trade comprised mainly of rice dealers, sellers and growers.
Their main concerns were the varieties approved for growth in the Punjab and their respective support prices prior to harvest in September through December. After rice exports were allowed to the private sector, a new body of people emerged in the shape of rice exporters. The rice exporters had no platform from which to interact with the government.
They had a new and different set of problems that were related with marketing of rice globally, correcting systematic deficiencies that emanated from a monopoly procurement system with politically inspired support prices followed by politically priced overseas sales of bulk quantities at low prices and mainly in bulk sized packing.
In 1988-89, the Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP) came into existence and started interacting with the Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock and also the Planning Division of the Government of Pakistan.
In 1992 realising the absence on any national rice standards, REAP played a pivotal role in establishing the Pakistan Rice Standards with the Pakistan Standards Institution for the first time in the history of Pakistan.
REAP also played host to the Arabian Gulf Co-operative Council government buyers from Kuwait, Oman, UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia in 1992 and for the first time since private sector was once again allowed rice exports, made sale of over 36,000 tons from private sector.
In 1996-97, REAP once again performed its responsibility by negotiating with the Europe Commission along side our Ambassador at Belgium and obtaining an abatement in import duties of 250 ECU/ton our Super and/or Kernel Basmati Brown rice.
Since then Pakistan has captured 60,000 tons out of a total market size of about 120,000 tons replacing India as the only source of Basmati in this market. Starting from scratch in 1988-89, REAP members managed to export over 2,000,000 tons of rice from Pakistan in 1997-98 while REAP had already winded up its operation.
The private sector has completely taken over the role, supporting the farmer by aggressively exporting his product. From time to time, numbers of proposals were made to the Government for the elimination of serious problems such as variety and research, milling machinery import and local fabrication, marketing problems, and quality control.
In 1998-99, REAP became a registered body with the Director Trade Organisation, Ministry of Commerce. Also in 1998-99, membership of REAP became compulsory for all rice exporters.
Now the membership of REAP is in the region of around 800 members spread all over Pakistan. Members of Managing Committee of REAP are constantly working for improvement in Pakistan's quality of rice and introduction of new varieties both in Sindh and Punjab.
REAP under the Chairmanship of Mr Abdul Rahim Janoo and his management team have accomplished creditable task of bringing Growers, Millers and Traders of rice crop on one platform and creating mutual harmony, understanding and affection among each other.
REAP leadership organised number of seminars and get-togethers of these three important elements of rice crop to educate themselves with the latest techniques, bottlenecks faced and how to solve them.
This sprit-de-crops has resulted that for the first time in the history Province of Sindh has produced appreciable quantities of high quality Basmati rice. Agriculture is the mainstay of our economy and our financial stability depends on better yield.
In spite of adverse geo-political conditions REAP has exceeded rice export target for this financial year. REAP is playing a positive role ensuring that rice crop continue its contribution in the revenue earning which is lifeblood of our economic development.