The United States Department of Agriculture is forecasting that Pakistan's rice exports will set a new record of 5 million metric tons in 2023-24. This is nearly 30% more than the 3.9 million tons Pakistan exported last year. It is being attributed to a bumper rice crop in the country and strong global demand after India imposed restrictions on its exports. A large exportable surplus has helped Pakistani exporters to offer competitive prices in the international market, but prices are likely to remain high due to an increase in demand, according to S&P Global Commodity Insights. European Union and Middle East are the main export markets for Pakistani Basmati rice while Africa and the Far East have emerged as the key export destinations for non-Basmati rice from Pakistan.
|Top Rice Exporting Countries. Source: Aljazeera
Pakistan is the world's fourth largest exporter of rice after India, Thailand and Vietnam. Last year (2022-23), India exported an estimated 20.5 million tons of rice, almost 2.5 times that of the second largest exporter, Thailand with 8.5 million tons. Thailand was followed by Vietnam (7.9 million tons), Pakistan (3.6 million tons) and the United States (2.1 million tons).
|Pakistan Rice Exports. Source: S&P Global
Pakistan is among the world's largest food producing countries. It produces large and growing quantities of cereals, meat, milk, fruits and vegetables. Currently, Pakistan produces about 38 million tons of cereals (mainly wheat, rice and corn), 17 million tons of fruits and vegetables, 70 million tons of sugarcane, 60 million tons of milk and 4.5 million tons of meat. Total value of the nation's agricultural output exceeds $50 billion. Improving agriculture inputs and modernizing value chains can help the farm sector become much more productive to serve both domestic and export markets.
One of the objectives of Pakistan government's Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) is to bring in new investments to modernize farming. Already, Pakistan has signed a memorandum of understanding with Kuwait for $10 billion worth of projects, including some focused on food security. The government is also collaborating with China Machinery Engineering Corp., an engineering and construction heavyweight, and China’s Famsun, an agriculture equipment company, according to a presentation about the initiative in November seen by Bloomberg.
The initial focus of the Green Pakistan program is on transforming parts of the Cholistan desert to farms and fruit orchards As much as 4.8 million acres of the desert may be allocated fir this purpose. Many parcels of land available for lease are in arid and underdeveloped regions, supporting irrigation initiatives. Some farmers are already working on their own to implement drip irrigation in Cholistan. Back in 2019, Zofeen Ibrahim of The Third Pole publication met one such farmer named Hasan Abdullah. He uses a measured amount of water mixed with fertilizer via drip irrigation to precisely irrigate his 50 acre citrus farm located on the sand dunes. As much as 60% of the cost of installing drip irrigation system has come from the provincial government.
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