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KARACHI: REAP shown serious concern over a shocking and very irresponsible statement issued by the Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Agriculture Jamshed Cheema saying 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. He further said Basmati rice should only be produced for local consumption. His statement is patently false and misleading because we export more than $800 million of Basmati rice every year.

Cheema seems to be supporting the Indian application in the European Union claiming exclusive ownership of the Geographical Indication for Basmati rice that has been challenged by the Government of Pakistan as well as the Basmati rice trade. 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 etc.

REAP would like to apprise that Basmati is being sown in Punjab since 17th century (Source Heer Ranjha) and due to its unique aroma, our basmati rice act as Pakistan’s ambassador globally. Pakistan 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 starting from farmers to millers to exporters to work force to international brand owners are dependent on its sowing.

REAP hopes that the prime minister will take up the matter on priority basis and intervene in this matter to save $800 million basmati exports industry.—PR

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021