KARACHI: Pakistani rice exporters are hopeful they can retain their markets in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and other Gulf countries despite an up to 40% estimated drop in rice production following catastrophic floods that damaged vast swaths of farmland around the country this summer, the national rice exporters’ body has said.
The south Asian nation is still reeling from the deadly impact of monsoon rains and floods that started in mid-June this year and destroyed homes, infrastructure and agriculture, impacting over 33 million people. According to government figures, the estimated economic losses from the deluge are around $30 billion.
The floods have hit Pakistan’s two agriculture centers, Sindh and some parts of Punjab province, where rice, a major staple food in the country, is sown.
Despite that, exporters are optimistic about retaining the Middle Eastern market on the back of normal crop production in Punjab.
“Pakistan exports around 500,000 tons of rice mainly to Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Oman, and other Gulf countries,” Chela Ram Kewlani, Chairman of the Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP), a representative body of rice exporters, told Arab News this week.
“We have enough stocks to meet the requirements of Pakistan’s Middle Eastern market.”
However, Pakistani exporters also fear a million-ton drop in rice exports in the wake of flood damages, which will also hurt the value of the commodity.
“Last year, Pakistan’s rice production was 8 million tons, out of which we exported 4.88 million tons and the rest was left for local consumption, mostly basmati rice,” Kewlani said.
Pakistan last year earned $2.5 billion through the export of rice mainly to far eastern, European and Middle Eastern countries.
“We estimated that exports of rice would be around 3.5 million tons, so the value would suffer by over $500 million,” Kewlani said, adding it would be hard to meet the $2 billion mark this year.
Pakistan yearly produces around four million tons of basmati rice, mostly in Punjab, out of which three million tons is locally consumed and only 800,000 tons is exported. Rice produced in the Sindh province is mainly exported to far eastern countries.
Exporters said their market could now fall into the hands of Pakistan’s arch-foe and neighbor, India.
“Sindh exports around 70 percent of rice, mostly to the far eastern destination including China,” Kewlani said.
Pakistani rice exporters have called for persistent policies, including exchange rate stability, to minimize export losses.
Pakistan’s exports have suffered by 11.5 percent in terms of quantity and 8.2 percent in terms of value by October 2022 since the start of the fiscal year in July 2022. The country has earned $545.7 million as compared to $594.6 million earned the previous year, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.