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Guard Agricultural Research & Services: Leader in demand-drivenresearch in agriculture

Shahzad Malik (SI), Chief Executive Guard Agriculture Research & Services (Pvt.) Ltd Pakistan &...
14 Apr 2021

Shahzad Malik (SI), Chief Executive Guard Agriculture Research & Services (Pvt.) Ltd

  • Pakistan & Srilanka-Trade and Investment Opportunities

Rice has special significance in Asia, where about 90% of the rice is produced and consumed as staple food. Though in Pakistan it is the second most favorite food after wheat, even then increasing mouths to feed in the country and decreasing land and water resources available for rice cultivation needs serious and concrete efforts through research & development to come up with such rice technologies that will result in higher yields.

Pakistan’s total population is slightly over 220 million and at current growth rate of over 2.1 percent it is expected to become the 4th most populous country of the world in 2050.

Involvement of seed companies from private sector is crucial to meet the increased demand for hybrid seed.

Realizing the importance of private seed research, Guard Agricultural Research & Services (GUARD) established in 1989 launched research to develop new hybrid seed in collaboration with Hunan Rice Research Institute (HRRI) Hunan, China in 1999.Later on for commercialization of hybrid rice we made joint venture with Yuan Long Ping High-Tech Agriculture Co., Ltd, China which is off shoot of HRRI, having share holding of eminent scientist and breeder, Professor Yuan Long Ping who is inventor of hybrid rice technology and is also known as “father of hybrid rice”, with special focus on looming water scarcity and climate change threats which are posing serious threat to national food security.

So far, Guard alone has introduced 10 new hybrid varieties for general cultivation all over Pakistan. These all are coarse varieties generally sown in Sindh and South Punjab havingtolerance against heat and water scarcity.The company is also on the way tointroduce a basmati hybrid having anaverage yield up to 80 mounds per acrewith an average grain length of 8 mm.We are very near to achieving this targetafter hard work of five to six years; ourscientists in collaboration with ourChinese partners have developed basmatihybrids out of which one variety isgiving 75 mounds per acres and averagegrain length of 7.4 mm, slightly short ofthe target of 80 mounds per acre. Ourscientists have been tasked to developheat, drought tolerant and salinityresistant varieties.

Guard commercializedSuper Basmati in 1991, which waseventually approved by Government in1997 for commercial cultivation after40 per cent of Punjab area came under its cultivation. The Company afterintroduction of coarse hybrid has alsostarted local production of hybrid riceseed. We are the leading company bydeveloping such a large number ofhybrids and starting local commercialhybrid rice seed production.

The need to bring newhybrids of rice is because the yield ofrice varieties is low and stagnant. Lowrice yields do not match with increasingcost of inputs; due to increase in cost ofproduction Pakistan is becomingun-competitive in international market.Land resources are declining, watershortage is becoming a problem, solution is adoption of hybrid rice.

Since the introduction ofhybrid rice in Sindh, income of ricefarmers has doubled due to double yieldof hybrid rice as compared to IRRIvarieties, doubled income of farmers, resulted in poverty alleviation, socio-economic changes in rural areasof Sind and South Punjab. Due to earlymaturing hybrid rice crop, timelysowing of Rabi crops is ensured. Timelysown Rabi crops give positive andsignificant increase in per unit production / per acre yield which consequentlyincrease farmer income. Due to shortermaturity period, hybrid rice crop can beplanted in late season. Further toshorter maturity period, hybrid rice cropconsumes less irrigation as comparedto traditional rice varieties. Hybrid ricecrop can be successfully grown in stressareas like saline, drought and waterlogged as compared to inbred.

Success in getting more peracre yield has paved the way forproducing more non-basmati rice andincreasing its exports thus fetchingmore revenue for the cash strappedcountry. There is also a need of moreproduction and supply to explore newmarkets and achieve the target of US 5billion dollars export in the next fiveyears, hybrid seeds can make thispossible. High yielding hybrid rice areais going to cross 50 per cent in threeyears from present 25 to 30 per centpaddy coverage, yielding additionaltwo million tons output.

All efforts of introducinghybrid rice seed in Pakistan is beingcommanded by national seed companiesmainly in collaboration of Chineseleadership in research & developmentwith 'Guard Agri' having the lion's share.Several multinational seed companiesdid try to introduce hybrid rice seed butcould not outperform national seedcompanies. Their varieties were lessrewarding for farmers due to lack of jumpin production while seed cost was alsohigh when compared to what local seedcompanies were offering.

Being founding chairmanof Seed Association of Pakistan (SAP)and Rice Exporters Association ofPakistan (REAP) and former Presidentof Lahore Chamber of Commerce &Industry (LCCI), I believe with untiringefforts of local scientists, the role ofprivate sector in seed research anddevelopment is increasing day by day,as I have closely worked with Governmentand Private researchers.

With doubling of hybrid riceseed coverage from present 25-30 percent to over 50 per cent in next threeyears, national rice production ispotentially expected to be increased byhefty two million tons. At present yieldis 6.9 million ton from 2.79 million hectares. By doubling the area from 25per cent to 50 per cent, the expectedincrease in yield will be around 2million tons and total yield will bearound 9 million tons.

In total rice hybridization, around 90 per cent area of long-grainpaddy is in Sindh province while 10 percent in South Punjab. As aromaticbasmati rice is first choice for farmersin Punjab, coarse varieties area is stilllow. However, with production ofhybrid rice seed in central Punjab, paddy area in Punjab is likely toincrease significantly in coming years,he observed.

The major factor behindsuccess of national seed companies inlarge-scale acceptance of rice hybridseed has been development of heat-resistanceand drought-tolerant varieties.Multinational seed companies hadvarieties that could not perform well inharsh summer weather of Sindh andSouthern Punjab. Long grain hybrid ricethat substituted IRRI-6 in the coastalbelt and central Sindh is a major successas its export market is rapidly evolvingin the favor of farmers and exporters.

Consequently, our long grainrice is gaining grounds globally withmuch ease by competing major producersand exporting countries of the worldlike Vietnam and Thailand.

Our company has emergedas a leader in demand-driven researchin agriculture, challenging the monopolyof public sector institutions andmultinationals.

With great passion toincrease productivity of farming sector, we are actively striving to achieve foodsecurity in an untiring effort spanningover past 30 years. We successfully pioneered the introduction of hybridrice seed in Pakistan with collaborationof Chinese scientists for whichGovernment of Pakistan honoured meSitara-e-Imtiaz for contribution inrevolution of rice production whichdoubled the income of farmers,resulting in changing socio-economicconditions and poverty alleviation inrural Sindh. The surplus rice productionresulted in increased rice (non-basmati) exports bringing invaluable foreign exchange.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021