Pakistan has struck an unprecedented deal with Philippines for the export of hybrid rice seed to the Southeast Asian nation, an industry official said on Thursday.
“Philippines has decided to import hybrid rice seed from Pakistan because the crop raised form this variety is less labor intensive compared to Irri, which is currently being cultivated in the Southeast Asian country,” Shahrukh Malik, executive at Guard Agricultural Research & Services told journalists in a media briefing.
“For the first time in the history of the country, domestically developed hybrid seed will be traded to a foreign country. Philippines needs the seed for 2018 crop and we have already increased the production area to 900 acres to meet the demand.”
He informed the journalists that Philippines have over 137,000 varieties of Irri but being a labor intensive crop, the archipelago in the southwestern Pacific is looking for a hybrid variety. “The climate in which hybrid rice seeds are bred in Sindh is similar to that of Philippines. Their experts assayed the procedure of seed production thoroughly at our farms before cutting a deal with us,” Malik disclosed.
The Guard rice research executive observed the export of hybrid rice seed will be a milestone in the country’s rice sector and will open new opportunities in the international market apart from giving local research and development a fresh impetus.
“We have also developed a basmati hybrid seed. The field trials are already underway. It’s expected to be commercially available by 2018,” he said. Replying to a question, he said unfortunately lack of public private sector partnership is hindering the progress of seed development in Pakistan.
“Public sector has its own inherited problems, while the private sector conducts research with commercial result-oriented focus. Thus the pace of private sector is fast compared to the public,” Malik said.
He continued that there’s a yawning trust deficit between the public and private sector researchers and it needs to end through coordinative initiatives. “Due to this deficit, the authorities take too long to green-signal a newly developed seed for commercial launch, hurting private sector growth,” he asserted.
Moving forward, he explained that at least 45 companies are importing hybrid seeds, including the top five firms of the world, but none of them is producing hybrid seeds in Pakistan, which is an obstacle in the transfer of technology to the country.
“The government shall bind those companies to produce at least 20 percent of the total quantity of imported seeds in Pakistan,” he suggested adding it will revolutionise the seed development and agriculture sector.
Summarizing the growth of the hybrid rice in Pakistan, Malik told the media that during 2008-09, area under Irri cultivation was 560,000 hectares but reduced to 423,000 hectares in 2014-15, while area under hybrid cultivation was only 84000 hectares, which increased to 302000 hectares in 2014-15.
“Similarly, in 2008-09, Irri production was recorded at 19,49,000 tons but it decreased to 11,61,000 tons in 2014-15, while hybrid rice production, which stood at 4,54,000 tons in 2008-09, jumped to 14,16,000 tons during 2014-15,” he added.
Continuing his talk, he said the aforementioned numbers also reflected in the exports as total quantity of the basmati rice sold overseas stood at 11,37,943 tons in 2010-11 but reduced to 676630 in 2014-15, while non-basmati export, which was logged at 25,63,664 in 2010-11, increased to 3054680 tons in 2014-15.
“A substantial increase in hybrid production and exports of non-basmati rice export is encouraging for the sector,” Malik said.