KARACHI: The Union of Small and Medium Enterprises (UNISAME) invited the attention of Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority (SMEDA) CEO Alamgir Chaudhry to the difficulties faced by the SME rice growers, millers, processors and exporters and urged study and examination of the issues of the rice industry and suggestions for remedial measures to the ministries of agriculture and commerce to save the rice industry.
UNISAME President Zulfikar Thaver said it is incumbent upon SMEDA to look into the predicament of the SMEs engaged in the rice business, which is in jeopardy due to the issues of the industry and unable to survive under such circumstances, especially when there is a global decline in the commodities market.
He advised all SMEs in rice business, be it growing, milling, processing or exports, to register themselves with SMEDA and inform it of the difficulties which they are facing to enable it to study them and raise the issues effectively with the ministries concerned.
Thaver said after cotton textiles, rice was the second biggest export industry, but due to lack of interest the industry has suffered loss and more than 1,000 rice units have closed down. UNISAME experts said due to high farm inputs the rice prices have become non-competitive and secondly primitive methods of cultivation and poor condition of the soil the yields per acre have fallen.
Thirdly, there is no research for new varieties and fourthly there is no marketing support from the government. Fifthly, due to poor logistics the rice industry remains behind our neighbouring country India which is competing with Pakistan.
One important point which needs to be seriously looked into by the Pakistan Standard Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) is the sub standard fertilisers and counterfeit fumigation medicines supplied for destroying insecticides and pesticides. The SME farmer is paying through the nose for these inputs and suffering losses because of its ineffectiveness or low potency.
The modern day logistic companies have a system of collateral management which is comprehensive and covers inspection at different stages, risk management with insurance, warehouse receipt financing, speedy movements and tracking, thus making banks comfortable in financing the SME rice traders before and after shipments.
It is high time the rice industry modernised, and SMEDA can play an important role in its up gradation and modernisation. They also complained about the poor representation and advocacy of the Basmati Growers Association (BGA) at the forum in India whereby Pakistan was denied the Geographical Indication (GI) inclusion of basmati rice.
Basmati is grown in India and Pakistan since more than centuries and not including Pakistani basmati rice in the GI amounts to a very apparent and serious error in judgment but the SMEs fail to understand why on earth the BGA challenged the Indian application in the Indian court when India was aiming at identification in India only and it was not a global GI application. Secondly having challenged it, why did it not do its homework and advocate the case wholeheartedly.
However, it is unfortunate that the Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP) and the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) did not take interest in the matter and pursue to expedite the GI law in Pakistan. Alamgir Chaudhry has promised and assured UNISAME that he would discuss future strategy with his team on priority to secure the interest of the SMEs in the rice sector.
Source: Daily Times