High-yielding hybrid basmati seed developed

LAHORE: With the development of a high-yielding fine rice seed, the commercialisation of hybrid basmati is expected to be achieved by 2019-20, announced Guard Agricultural Research and Services (Guard Agri) Chief Executive Officer Shahzad Ali Malik.

Talking to a group of journalists, Malik pointed out that the development of an ideal hybrid basmati seed was a cumbersome process. “It is not a simple job, we have been working on introducing the seed for the past several years,” he said.

“After going through a tedious process, our scientists, with the help of Chinese experts, have reached advanced stage of carrying out the seed’s trial.” According to Malik, seven to eight years are at least required to introduce a new seed variety. “We are facing a few challenges in developing the hybrid basmati variety, which are being addressed by breeders this year.”

Malik, who have launched high-yielding coarse hybrid rice seed varieties in the country, said farmers planting fine rice varieties would also be able to earn a significantly higher income with the cultivation of hybrid basmati rice.

With the marketing of hybrid seeds for coarse rice varieties, many farmers in Sindh and Balochistan have been able to double per-acre yield, which has also brought down the cost of production and increased their income significantly.

At the national level, a quantum jump in rice production has led to export surplus and a tremendous rise in export earnings. “We are hopeful of increasing the hybrid basmati rice yield to around 70 to 80 maunds per acre, which is almost double the present average yield. The new hybrid variety will be an extra-long grain that elongates after cooking,” he said.

The company expects to keep some aroma in the hybrid basmati variety, though it is not among primary features of new varieties being developed in other countries. The hybrid basmati available in world markets nowadays did not have much aroma, so it was no more a primary characteristic of the rice variety, he noted.

Malik was of the view that the competitive edge enjoyed by Pakistan’s basmati exporters would widen with more exportable surplus in the next couple of years, which may lead to a jump of $1 billion in rice exports. Pakistan’s rice shipments have gone up rapidly in recent years. With Chinese assistance, new varieties of hybrid seeds have enhanced productivity, profitability and exports.

It is a win-win situation for all stakeholders that will play a role in building the national economy. With the addition of new hybrid basmati varieties, Punjab farmers will be able to raise production manifold and exports to traditional markets will increase.