Pakistan recently sought technological help from China to develop and introduce hybrid rice varieties in all the four ecological zones of the country. The objective was to arrest the decline in the production of rice, the country’s second main staple.
The Chinese response to the government’s request was prompt, and a team of scientists travelled to Pakistan for a month-long visit.
Yuan LongPing High-Tech Agriculture Co Ltd, one of the world’s most renowned rice hybrid seed production companies, carried out a programme last month to help improve the capacity of researchers, scientists, extension workers, the private sector and farmers to produce hybrid rice seed and promote its productivity.
Chinese agricultural scientists travelled to core rice-producing areas in Swat and Mansehra in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; Kala Shah Kaku, Sahiwal, Multan and Rahimyar Khan in Punjab; Larkana, Sukkur and Hyderabad in Sindh; and Jafferabad, Jhal Magsi and Nasirabad in Balochistan.
The best hybrid rice varieties were showcased which were suitable for the four ecological zones of the country.
The Chinese team studied the growers’ requirements for hybrid rice seeds in the ecological zones of Pakistan where coarse rice production has great potential.
Scientists of the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) foresee a revolution in hybrid rice seed as a result of the cooperation between China and Pakistan.
During the programme, the Chinese team gave training in hybrid rice technology including hybrid rice breeding, parents breeding, hybrid seed production and field management skills for high-yield cultivation including theoretical lectures and field practices.
With the Chinese assistance, new varieties of rice hybrid seed — coarse or non-basmati rice — will be developed to increase productivity, profitability and exports
The two countries have agreed to cooperate in hybrid rice promotion at federal, public and private sector levels in Pakistan.
With the Chinese assistance, new varieties of rice hybrid seed — coarse or non-basmati rice — will be developed to increase productivity, profitability and exports, in addition to improving the already available hybrid rice varieties.
So far, 54 rice hybrids belonging to different seed companies have been recommended for sowing by the PARC’s committee that evaluates seed varieties.
Though rice hybrids are getting attention of growers, their per-acre yield remains low. This is why rice production has dropped during the just-concluded Kharif season.
Minister for National Food Security and Research Sikandar Hayat Khan Bosan hopes the new rice varieties will help farmers to significantly increase per-acre yield and exports.
Low productivity is a major hindrance in improving the socio-economic condition of rice growers because they make low profits.
PARC chairman Dr Yusuf Zafar claims that under the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the cooperation between the two countries has enabled Pakistan to export hybrid rice seeds for the first time in its agricultural history.
The rice varieties produced in Pakistan are best known for their moisture, heat tolerance and better yields, he says.
New rice varieties will not only increase crop yields, but they are also expected to help farmers earn more and ultimately play a role in building the country’s economy.
Dr Muhammad Yusuf, national coordinator of the cereal system at the PARC, says it has been proposed that Pakistan get Chinese technological assistance in hybrid rice for at least four to five years. Moreover, a yearly programme will be devised to improve the capacity of researchers, extension workers and farmers for hybrid seed production in Pakistan.
He says hybrid rice development would not affect basmati, Pakistan’s supreme rice. The idea is to enhance the productivity of hybrid or coarse rice varieties, which are in high demand in the Asia-Pacific region and Africa, he adds.
Meanwhile, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations has lowered its forecast of world’s paddy production to 754.6 million tonnes (500.8m tonnes on a milled basis) in 2017.
This level would be only nominally changed (by 60,000 tonnes) from the 2016 all-time high, says FAO’s latest Rice Market Monitor report.
The downward adjustment primarily reflects deteriorated crop prospects in Asia, following a challenging climatic unfolding of the season, which has been characterised by abnormal dryness.
Singularly, the largest absolute production gains are expected to take place in Indonesia and Thailand, although Cambodia, Pakistan and the Philippines are all headed towards record-breaking harvests.
Based on current supply prospects, FAO tentatively forecasts international rice deliveries to expand by just 1pc in 2018 to 45.4m tonnes.
Underlying the forecast growth are expectations of somewhat larger purchases by countries in Asia, in particular, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Saudi Arabia, where supplies would be needed to refurbish dwindling inventories.
Among suppliers, Argentina, India, Thailand, the United States and Uruguay are all envisaged to see their competitive edge eroded by more limited exportable availabilities in 2018.
However, Australia, Brazil, Cambodia, China (Mainland), Guyana, Pakistan, Paraguay, and especially, Vietnam, should count on sufficient supplies to more than compensate for these export reductions.