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Pakistan’s rice exports during the now ending financial year will fall short of the dream $4 billion mark but will manage to clock in at $3.5 billion for the 12M Jul – Jun period. The incremental $1 billion export earnings over the previous record of $2.5 billion is not only the highest ever increase in history, the 81 percent increase over last year dollar value is also highest ever year-on-year percentage increase recorded ever in country’s history.

In fact, rice exports are now the second biggest line item in Pakistan’s goods export scorecard, exceeding all other major export categories such as woven garments, bed linen, home textiles, and cotton fabric, only falling short of knitwear. If Pakistan manages to raise its export volume by just one more million metric ton, rice exports could very well be on their way to become the largest exports out of the country. During the ongoing marketing year, Pakistani rice dominated 11 percent of global rice trade, country’s highest market share for any goods export category at HS-2 level. Pakistan’s position as the fourth largest rice exporter – behind India, Thailand, and Viet Nam is very much on firm footing. The question now really is can it topple Thailand and Viet Nam to become the second largest exporter in years to come.

This is where things become tricky. Beyond short-term challenges such as lifting of Indian ban and unfavorable local market conditions, the global rice opportunity is set to become more lucrative for Pakistan in years to come. Traditional large exporters such as India, Thailand, Viet Nam are also the largest consumers, where growing population and per capita incomes – juxtaposed with rising extreme weather events and adverse climatic conditions – is leading to dwindling exportable surpluses. Although the US produces a mean exportable surplus, it is barely sufficient to meet the gaping demand gap in the Western Hemisphere, where rice are traditionally popular in the Hispanic-Portuguese and Native American cultures. In addition, the freight disadvantage puts export of US origin rice to Asia and Africa a particularly unattractive proposition, give Pakistani rice a unique advantage.

Pakistan’s rice advantage lies in that it is probably the only commodity produced in the country where local consumption is less than exports and has historically been so. Pakistanis are not traditionally married to the idea of rice as their primary grain staple, but that’s also because the semi-arid climatic conditions of the Indus Basin are not at all suited for rice cultivation. Rice cultivation is best suited to hot and humid tropical climates which receive maximum rainfall and is not dependent on canal-fed irrigation.

In contrast, Pakistan’s rice cultivation is almost exclusively canal-fed. Water sector experts unanimously insist that if the canal water consumption in rice cultivation were priced on market basis, Pakistani growers would cease to cultivate rice altogether. The $4 billion annual rice export opportunity is almost purely dependent on the water subsidy, in a country which is not only water stress, but where future canal water availability shall also become increasingly irregular and uncertain.

Which means that the miracle of rice exports witnessed during 2023-24 is not only not dependable but is also dangerous for a country where they have now come to represent 15 percent of total goods export earnings.

Congratulations on the windfall’s profits and phenomenal export earnings. But let’s not get used to it.


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KU Jun 25, 2024 11:07am
Easy congratulatory article for senses, but local price is unaffordable by people. Can BR give details on buyers of our rice? We are losing much $ on rice varieties branded n sold by others.
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JI Jun 25, 2024 11:16am
Brilliant article. Water stressed nation can't grow water guzzling crops. Sooner we realise the better.
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Mujahideen Jun 25, 2024 12:44pm
As a Pakistani Muslim, I plead that the proceeds of the exports be given to Palestine.
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NXT Jun 25, 2024 02:17pm
So much for sucking up to the textile lobby. Our so called leadership ought to support agriculture and develop world class tourism.
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Builder Jun 25, 2024 04:11pm
If it's canal fed and in a season when there is maximum water in canals, then why shouldn't we grow rice and export?
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Az_Iz Jun 25, 2024 04:48pm
Rice has done well without any minimum support price.Let it chart it's own course.
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Az_Iz Jun 25, 2024 04:51pm
Let's not strangle a successful area of the economy.Grow more rice,and import more wheat,if that is more profitable for the farmers.Water related issues should be tackled.
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IB Jun 25, 2024 05:16pm
Good points raised... I hope sane persons in the administration know about this and manage our water between rice cultivation and urban consumption, in Karachi there is no water for house holds usage.
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Abdul Jun 25, 2024 07:58pm
@ Mujahideen , yes brother this should be given to Palestine. This is the least we can do as islamic republic.
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Kishore Kumar Jun 26, 2024 12:46pm
Rice cultiwation be limit and expiet band sugur cultiwation be limit and expodt band to go in wheat and pulses and fruit and vegitables and olive and mustered oil
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fahad sabih Jun 26, 2024 01:35pm
What about the local price of rice.long basmati price is not affordable for locals,Quality is also not good.
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H Abdullah Jun 26, 2024 06:53pm
Very well said!
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Muqtada Ali Jun 27, 2024 09:13am
Such a negative article ....who told him that canals are drying up ....we can be much more efficient in water management...
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