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March 21, 2018

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Pakistan to export 100 tons hybrid rice seeds for first time in April

LAHORE: Pakistan is all set to export the first ever consignment of 100 tons heat-tolerant rice seeds to the Philippines next month, a senior industry official said – a shipment that is long-awaited since the country begun experimenting hybrid technology over a decade back.

“The first ever consignment of 100 tons high-yielding hybrid rice seed is expected to be exported to the Philippines in April, which will be sufficient to cultivate about 15,000 acres of land,” Shahzad Ali Malik, chief executive officer (CEO) of hybrid seed company Guard Agricultural Research and Services told journalists early this week.

The success of Pakistani scientists in developing prime rice seed varieties was a result of partnership with Chinese researchers, led by Yuan Longping, in 2004 after development of hybrid seed breeding technique across the coastal belt of Sindh.

The country was expecting to ship the maiden consignment of hybrid rice seeds last year, but it was delayed because officials said it takes a long process from harvesting and grading to regulatory procedures before such seed gets ready for the plantation.

Malik said as the hybrid seed is produced in harsh weather of coastal belt it is suitable for plantation in changing climate of China and other Far Eastern countries of Asia, offering lucrative exports market. “India can also take huge benefits from this seed technology.”

Guard Agricultural Research’s chief, while talking about climate change and its impact on agro-ecosystems, said the need to develop heat-tolerant and drought-resistant hybrid rice seed varieties becomes immensely important due to climate change. Production of premium quality seed by the private sector is a big achievement as public sector institutions or multinationals monopolise the seed development. Malik said his company also carried out hybrid rice trials for seed multiplication in South-Central districts of Punjab.

“The step would prove very beneficial in increasing area of hybrid rice in Punjab by offering low cost of production to growers,” he added. “Consequently, production of hybrid rice varieties would lead to opening of more export avenues, a win-win situation for researchers, farmers and the economy.” Hybrid seed varieties, being cultivated in Sindh coastal belt, have a very healthy production capacity of seven to eight tons/hectare. One of the varieties has strong roots and stem systems, enhancing its endurance against high winds.

Chinese researchers are also helping their Pakistan counterparts to introduce super-hi hybrid variety of rice with 18 tons/hectare yield potential.

Philippines, one of the world’s biggest rice producers and importers, is facing invariable import supplies, keeping the country at the risk of food shortages. Introduction of hybrid seed on vast scale is seen as a solution to the problem. The south east Asian nation’s rice crop season would start during the next month. It wants to increase area under hybrid rice cultivation to 30 percent. Only high-yielding hybrid rice varieties could help in tremendously increasing yields without increasing acreage, achieving vertical growth potential. In the recent years, even Thailand and some other major producers had to import rice to meet its demand mainly due to inconsistent performance of agriculture due to multiple factors.

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