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LAHORE: Stakeholders at a seminar on “Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) in Rice Crop” have expressed their fears that Pakistan may face ban on exports of rice to the European Union due to excessive use of pesticides.

The seminar was arranged by the Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry (LCCI). The stakeholders observed that the European Union has already issued an alert for Pakistan while 161 consignments of rice have been rejected by the European Union and the USA due to high ratio of residue in rice crop.

They said that the growers apply post-harvest sprays of pesticides which are the main reason of high ratio of residue level in rice crop. Only registered pesticides should be used for rice crop, they advised the growers.

Punjab Minister for Agriculture Syed Hussain Jahanian Gardezi was the Chief Guest while LCCI President Mian Tariq Misbah presided over the seminar. Vice President Tahir Manzoor Chaudhry, Convener LCCI Standing Committee on Rice & Former LCCI President Shahzad Ali Malik, former LCCI Senior Vice President Ali Hussam Asghar, Senior Vice Chairman Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan Faisal Jahangir, President Kissan Ittehand Khalid Khokhar and Chairman Pakistan Crop Protection Association Saad Akbar spoke on the occasion.

The Minister said that Basmati Rice is our pride and its quality is best in the world. He said that developed world has set strict standards for food safety. In 2017, Indian rice exports were banned due to non-compliance with the standards and the benefit was shifted to Pakistan.

The Minister said that the government is well aware about the issue of excessive use of pesticides. In 2018, a committee was constituted which formed parameters in this regard. He said that there is a dire need to educate the farmers. He said that a state-of-the-art laboratory has been established at Kala Shah Kaku and the rice exports should avail this facility. He said that the government is taking measures to control the use of harmful chemicals on the rice crop.

LCCI President Mian Tariq Misbah said that traditionally, rice has been number one food crop of Pakistan in terms of earning foreign exchange for the country. He said that the importance of Rice in our exports can be judged from the fact that in 2019-20, the exports of Rice stood at $2.27 billion (around 10% of our total exports in that year). Even in the first eleven months of 2020-21, the exports of rice have surpassed $2 billion.

The LCCI President said that considering this importance of rice, we have to take extra care of all the requirements of rice importers, especially in developed markets and the European Union to maintain our regular share in international market.

Convener LCCI Standing Committee on Rice and former LCCI President Shahzad Ali Malik said that we need to be proactive as Western and European countries have further tightened the food safety measures. Pakistan must further reduce Minimum Residue Levels (MRL) in rice crop otherwise we cannot maintain the exports of rice over $2 billion.

The use of fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides and herbicides etc. has been on rise for the last couple of decades. In our market, there are national and multinational companies which are selling these chemicals. Since our farmers or growers are sensitive to price, so they hardly bother to know about the hazards of using cheaper and inferior chemicals on their crops.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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