KARACHI: The Union of Small and Medium Enterprises (UNISAME) urged Qasim Niaz, the Secretary Ministry of Commerce (MOC) to comprehend the Indian strategy of narrowing the Geographical Indication (GI) of basmati rice mainly to Indian areas and including very limited areas in Pakistan on the one hand and on the other allowing Indian exporters to ship blended rice under the basmati label.
President UNISAME Zulfikar Thaver said in a statement that MOC must take steps to overcome the road blocks. He expressed the need for MOC to understand the predicament faced by the rice exporters due to hurdles in the export of branded rice and the decline in exports of basmati rice.
He said it was unwise of MOC to continue with the Quality Review Committee (QRC) any more in view of the demand for branded rice by the buyers under their own logo and in some cases the rice exporters were exporting in their own popular brands. “At one time there was huge demand for basmati rice but the trend has changed and the buyers are looking for other finer varieties in white and parboiled rice.”
He pointed out that the buyers in gulf and Middle East were seeking rice from Pakistan namely 1121, 386 and basmati rice proportionately blended. “The Pakistani exporters are exporting rice as per the demands of the buyers who are placing orders for 1121 and 386 rice blended with basmati rice for aroma. This is done proportionately to maintain the cooking ability and fragrance to compete with India. Indian exporters are exporting rice under the basmati label which is blended with other varieties without any hindrances.”
QRC is creating hurdles for the rice exporters and as a result, the exporters are losing orders which are shifted to India which does not bar the export of different varieties of blended rice. He said it is pertinent to note that 1121 is the most expensive rice it is good in look and length and gives excellent cooking results and liked by restaurants but it is not Basmati. Likewise the 386 variety is in great demand but again not basmati and although abundantly grown and exported from Pakistan it is not a recognized variety and remains a banned variety on paper.
Thaver said: “The parboiling plants also prefer 1121 and 386 besides Irri 9 and irri 6 and procure the paddy of these varieties for parboiling. The 385 variety of Basmati rice is not grown and instead the super basmati is cultivated for better gains.”
“QRC was originally formed to protect the basmati label and now since the export is of long grain irri 6, 9, 386, 1121 and other non basmati rice. The trend is for value added rice which is sorted electronically, polished and very low broken percentage in small consumer packing for the shelves in super markets and the quality is the responsibility of the exporter and it is the reputation of the brand which matters,” he said.
Thaver said in view of the lowered demand for basmati rice and increasing demand for 1121, 386 and proportionately skillfully blended rice, QRC needed to be sent back home as the basmati variety which it was supposed to protect was now not demanded on its own but accepted as blended with other more expensive varieties. The status of basmati as the best rice is no more. It is definitely known for its aroma and fragrance but the 1121 has overtaken its position as number one rice.