LAHORE: Lower rates of Indian rice, exorbitant freight charges and higher buying by the importing countries last year because of Covid-19 hit the exports of rice from Pakistan hard as during the first 11 months of the current financial year, Pakistani rice exports declined by 14 percent as compared to last year.

Pakistan has so far exported 3.3 million tons of both the basmati and non-basmati rice varieties during the first 11 months (July 20-May 21) while last year during the same period Pakistan’s exports were 3.87 million tons.

While talking to a select group of journalists on Thursday, Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP) Chairman Abdul Qayyum Paracha termed the lower rates of Indian rice as the main reason behind the low exports not only from Pakistan but also from other competing countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and others.

He claimed that Indian attitude should be taken up with the World Trade Organization by the government as India manipulated the international market with lower rates might put the international food security at risk.

“India has offered its rice at an average rate of $360 per tons, while we’ve been quoting a price of $450 per tons. This difference of around $100 per tons badly damaged our exports,” said Paracha and added that Indian Basmati exports hit a record high in volume terms as it has so far exported 4.3 million tonnes of the commodity.

Regarding higher freight charges, he said some two years back, exporters were paying $1,500 per container freight, for instance, for Italy. The same has shot up to $8,000 per container, meaning $250 per tons increase.

He demanded the government should raise with the WTO the issue of flooding foreign markets with subsidized exports by India and thus jeopardizing international food insecurity.

“Under the WTO rules, flooding international markets with subsidized food, particularly rice, is an offence. Cambodia, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam all are offering rice export prices at $420 to $430 per ton then how India could offer the same at $360 per ton,” he said.

Meanwhile, rice exporters led by Paracha also called on the secretary Agriculture Punjab to discuss ways and means to promote mechanization in rice sowing.

Samee Ullah Naeem, former chairman and part of the delegation, said that through rice transplanters double number of rice saplings can be planted in an acre which means higher yield using same area, same quantity of water and other inputs.