Pakistan harvested a record rice crop of 8.9 million tonnes in the 2021-22 marketing year, up from 8.4 million tonnes the prior year, according to a Global Agricultural Information Network report from the Foreign Agricultural Service of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
“New higher-yielding hybrid rice varieties, improved agronomic practices and increased planting area, as farmers shift out of cotton, are factors driving the increased production,” the USDA said.
The agency noted that the Pakistan government’s policy of ensuring rice growers had adequate inputs also contributed to the record production.
Bolstered by the bumper crop, Pakistan is poised to export near-record volumes of rice this season as the country struggles to manage surplus stocks of grain.
The country’s rice exports in 2020-21 (November-October) were stagnant at 3.8 million tonnes, virtually unchanged from the previous year, the report said. Supply chain disruptions, shipping container shortages, and high transportation costs negatively impacted rice exports.
With this year’s record production adding more stocks, the total available supply is estimated to be 11 million tonnes, the USDA said.
“Domestic rice consumption is 3.7 million tonnes, leaving an exportable supply of 7.3 million tonnes for 2021-22,” the USDA said. “This large surplus will provide an opportunity to significantly increase exports, but Pakistani rice will continue to face stiff competition from India and Southeast Asia suppliers.”
Syed Fakhar Imam, Pakistan’s minister for National Food Security and Research said the country would offer rice worth $5 billion this season for exports to cut its ballooning surplus “but at the same time it’s a challenging task”.
“This year we have over 8 million tons of exportable, worth around $4.85 billion. If we succeed in exporting this surplus rice, it would be a major breakthrough,” Imam said.
China, Kenya, UAE, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia were key exports destinations of Pakistani rice over the last five years and Imam said the government is mulling to setup a committee or task force on national level under the supervision and monitoring of the Prime Minister to push rice exports to new markets including. Africa and Latin-America.
Of the total exportable surplus, approximately 30 percent is basmati (2.41 million tons). Currently, the average export prices of basmati and coarse rice are $870/ton and $490/ton respectively. At these prices, Pakistan can earn $2.10 billion and $2.75 billion (total $4.85 billion) from the export of basmati and coarse rice, respectively.
Given the pace of imports during the first six months of 2021/22, the wheat import forecast is reduced from 2.5 to 2 million tons.
Cotton continues to be the only genetically engineered (GE) crop approved for cultivation and use. Regulatory uncertainty prevents life science companies from seeking approval for any other GE crops, and the National Biosafety Committee is still developing regulations on imports of GE commodities intended for food, feed, and processing. In 2020, Pakistan imported around 2.2 million tons of soybeans, with the United States having nearly 50 percent market share.
In 2020, Pakistan imported just over 1 million tons of cotton, mostly from the United States and Brazil. It also imports soybeans, soybean meal, soybean oil, canola, and distillers dried grains (DDGs) derived from GE grains from the United States, Brazil, Canada, and Argentina.
Pakistan imported around 2.2 million metric tons of soybeans in 2020, with about 43 percent of that coming from the United States and the rest from Brazil.