Pakistani rice exports to Middle East surge after India lockdown

A vendor arranges different types of rice, with their prices displayed, at his shop in a wholesale market in Karachi, Pakistan April 2, 2019. (REUTERS)
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Updated 09 May 2020

Pakistani rice exports to Middle East surge after India lockdown

  • Official statistics reveal the country’s overall exports dropped by 54 percent against $2.9 billion recorded during July-April 2019-20
  • India’s lockdown restrictions also benefited Pakistan in the African market

KARACHI: Pakistan’s rice exporters managed to increase their market share in the Middle East by about 59 percent in April 2020 as India went into a strict lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, said businessmen affiliated with the trade on Thursday.

The development has taken place at a time when the country’s other exports have significantly declined owing to the COVID-19 situation.

“The Middle East is the main market of India’s basmati rice,” Muhammad Raza, senior vice chairman of the Rice Exporters’ Association of Pakistan (REAP), told Arab News. “When New Delhi decided to impose the lockdown, the orders were diverted to Pakistan.”

Pakistan also went into a state of lockdown on March 23, witnessing a massive decline of 47 percent in its exports in April to $957 million. According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), the country’s exports dropped by 54 percent against $2.9 billion recorded during July-April 2019-20 on a year-on-year basis.

As a result, the country’s trade deficit shot up by 42 percent from $1.5 billion in March 2020 to $2.1 billion in April 2020, though it still remained 19 percent down when compared with $2.6 billion recorded in April 2019.

According to provisional data, the country's rice exports to the Middle East increased by 59 percent to $420 million in April 2020 mainly due to the increasing demand of long grain rice in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and other regional countries. The export of basmati rice increased by 33 percent and overall rice exports surged by seven percent during July-March 2019-20 period, according to the PBS.

“The Middle East market was good for the country,” said the REAP vice president, “but the Indian lockdown also benefited Pakistan in the European and African markets.”

Commodity experts say the demand for Pakistani rice in the Middle East and other countries owed to the measures taken by other governments to maintain sufficient food stocks to ensure uninterrupted supply of these necessary items during lockdowns and quarantines.

“There is a huge demand for parboiled (sella) rice in Saudi Arabia, while white rice is a much sought after commodity in the UAE,” Muzamil R. Chapal, chairman of the Cereal Association of Pakistan, told Arab News.

Pakistan is among the top 10 rice producing countries in the world. The production of rice is expected to remain stagnant at 7.2 million tons in the current fiscal year (FY20), according to the State Bank of Pakistan.

“The country has more than 3.3 million tons of exportable surplus and there is no shortage of grain in Pakistan,” he said, adding: “The country can further consolidate its share in international markets by removing hurdles such as high shipping charges.”

Exporters said they could have exported more rice but could not go beyond the shipped volume due to labor shortage. However, the pace of export could decelerate due to the ease in lockdown restrictions in India.

“May 2020 will be a little subdued because India has eased lockdown and brought down its prices. Obviously, a country that shut down for more than one and half months will offload its stocks at lower prices,” Raza observed.

Pakistan must be ready from word 'go' against England, says coach Misbah

Updated 32 min 20 sec ago

Pakistan must be ready from word 'go' against England, says coach Misbah

  • England return to Old Trafford for first Test in another three-match series against Pakistan starting Wednesday
  • England are notoriously sluggish starters and have lost the opener in eight of their past 10 Test series

LONDON: Pakistan coach Misbah-ul-Haq has urged his side to get off to a flying start in their Test series with England, saying they must be at their best “right from the word ‘go’.”
England are notoriously sluggish starters and have lost the opener in eight of their past 10 Test series, including a recent 2-1 home success against the West Indies that marked international cricket’s return from the coronavirus lockdown.
They now return to Old Trafford, the scene of their two victories over Jason Holder’s men, for the first Test in another three-match series, against Pakistan, starting on Wednesday.
Misbah, suggesting England would have the advantage of momentum, told reporters on Monday: “We should be ready for an England team that have already had three matches of experience and they won their last two Test matches.
“We have to really come in this Test series right from the word ‘go’ at our best if we want to win a Test series or a Test match here.
“We are aware that England have a slight advantage but if we are alert and go 100 percent in the first Test match, that is the only way we can beat England, otherwise we will find ourselves in difficulty.”
Both England and Pakistan, who have played two intra-squad warm-up matches, boast talented pace attacks but Misbah, Pakistan’s captain when they drew a four-match series in England four years ago, believes his side also have the batsmen to give their bowlers enough runs to defend.
“It’s always tough with the Duke ball in England where the ball moves around off the seam and also in the air,” Misbah said.
“But this is where you can really fight and our batting looked in great shape in the last two series. We played in Pakistan but even in Australia we managed to score good runs in almost every innings.
“Shan Masood, Abid Ali scored centuries in previous series (at home to Bangladesh in February and at home to Sri Lanka in December). Conditions are different but still confidence plays a huge role in your mind when you’re coming from a series where you scored runs.
“Azhar (Ali) got a hundred (too, against Sri Lanka).
“In 2016 Asad Shafiq scored runs here, Babar Azam last time performed here in 2018 (when Pakistan drew a two-match series in England 1-1) and the way he’s batting at the moment, he’s confident and playing well.”
England’s attack, however, is set to feature James Anderson, closing in on 600 Test wickets, and Stuart Broad, who took his 500th in the third Test against the West Indies.
“It’s a challenge for us against an experienced and very good seam attack of England but I think we’ve got potential,” said Misbah.
“Mentally at the moment the guys are in good shape because they are coming from good performances.
“When you are confident mentally and in good shape, then you always can deliver on the field.”