DR. E A Siddiq
Padmashree Prof.(Dr.) E.A. Siddiq

Professor E. A. Siddiq obtained BSc (1959) from Madras University, MSc (1964) from Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi and PhD (1968) also from IARI under the supervision of Professor MS Swaminathan.He was Cytogeneticist (1968-76) and Senior Scientist, Breeding (1976-83) in the Division of Genetics, IARI; Rice Breeder in Egypt (1983-86), International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), The Philippines; Professor of Genetics, IARI (1986-87); Project Director, Directorate of Rice Research, Hyderabad (1987-94); and Deputy Director General (Crop Science), ICAR, New Delhi (1994-97).

After superannuation, he worked as National Professor, ICAR (1997-2002); Honorary Chair Distinguished, Centre for DNA Fingerprinting & Diagnostics (CDFD) (2002-07); Adjunct Professor, University of Hyderabad; Adjunct Scientist, CDFD; Adjunct Professor, IARI and Honorary Professor, Biotechnology, Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University, Hyderabad.

Following are the Couple of Questions With Mr E.A  Siddiq

Riceoutlook: Sir can you please share with us your thoughts regarding the future of Indian rice industry 

E.A Siddiq: India is the largest grower and second largest producer of rice in the world. Yet, it could not develop itself into a vibrant seed industry for long. Until two decades since the advent of the high yield technology in the mid 1960s, the country’s research and development priority had been to become self-sufficient in its rice needs. It was since early 1980s, when it become self-sufficient and left with increasingly sizeable surplus since mid 1990s, that the country’s ‘rice industry’ in true sense, started growing in all possible directions. To start with, it was the export of traditional basmati rice, which commands premium prize in the international market. Its growth in the last 10 years has been phenomenal in terms of volume and value (3.5 – 4.0 million tonnes valued at around Rs. 29,000 crores). The volume accounts for about 75% of the global basmati trade. This achievement would not have been possible but for the dominant role played by the Rice Exporters in the private sector, breeders, who continued to provide progressively improved varieties and APAEDA, that facilitated hassle-free trade. In the absence of any major competitor except Pakistan, which accounts for about 25% of the volume, India would continue to dominate basmati export trade.

As for the non-basmati rice, the country’s export volume ranges today between 4.5 and 5.0 million tonnes valued at around Rs. 15,000 crores. Given the growing surplus and global demand the country would be comfortable to export 7-8 million tonnes in the next few years. It would, however, depend on our sustaining the existing markets and finding additional markets and remain competitive in pricing and quality in comparison to other competing countries. If the current market trend continues India can hope to emerge as the largest rice exporting nation soon. Realization of this would depend on how serious the country is going to be in ensuring surplus enough to meet the growing demand and having in place a stable rice export policy.

Aside the export avenue, there is sizeable domestic market for both basmati and high quality non-basmati rices, if the growth of basmati demand over the years is around 10% and rising preference among general public for more expensive high quality non-basmati rices are any indication.  Growing popularity of packaged and branded rice in general and basmati rice in particular among consumers in the domestic as well as export markets is expected to boost the country’s rice industry in the coming years. Valued at Rs. 122 billion in 2013, this market segment is reported to grow at around 30% annually and hoped to raise the value close to Rs. 350 billion in a couple of years from now. Increasing number of players in the packaged and branded rice market and ongoing efforts to increase the size of market for their brands of basmati rice in varied price ranges through rice retail markets by the basmati rice marketing companies are indicative of innovations in rice commerce. Also, growing popularity of preprocessed ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook rice as well as a variety of rice-based products while reflecting the changing consumer preferences is as well an encouraging sign of progressive growth of India’s rice industry.

Riceoutlook: What are the major crops which are currently grown in Andhra Pradesh and what is the future of Andhra rice in the international market?

E.A Siddiq: United Andhra Pradesh has been one of the few agriculturally most progressive states in India. Accounting for sizeable contribution to the country’s agricultural production the state’s share of rice to the country’s rice production has been in the range of 12 to 13%. Of several high yielding varieties the state developed and extensively planted, Samba Mahsuri (BPT 5204) known for its excellent cooking quality and Swarna, ideally adapted to rainfed shallow lowland ecologies together occupy over 2.5 million hectares in Andhra Pradesh and the adjoining states over the last 25 years. Aside rice that accounts for the highest percentage of the cropped area, sorghum and maize, pigeonpea and blackgram, groundnut and castor, cotton and sugarcane are other major crops. In the bifurcated state, rice followed by blackgram, groundnut and sugarcane are the major crops in Residual Andhra Pradesh while rice followed by sorghum, pigeonpea and cotton are important crops in Telengana State. Varietal composition in respect of rice is more or less same Samba Mahsuri and Mtu1010 being the predominant ones in both the states while Swarna and similar long duration varieties suitable for coastal rice belt in kharif season in addition in Residual Andhra Pradesh.

Taking advantage of expanding scope for export of non-basmati finegrain varieties and sizeable surplus available with it, Andhra Pradesh has been exporting finegrain varieties like Samba Mahsuri until 2007. Apprehending that increasing food prices in the global market would adversely impact availability and hence escalation of rice prices in the domestic market Government of India imposed ban on export of non-basmati rice in 2008. The ban in force until 2011 was a serious setback to rice farming in the state forcing rice farmers of West Godavari district to observe ‘crop holiday’ as a protest by not planting rice in one lakh acres in kharif 2008. Being a major rice surplus state, United Andhra Pradesh would have continued to export no less than one million tonnes and benefited thereby rice farmers of the state, who are finding rice farming less and less remunerative. In the bifurcated situation, whereas Residual Andhra Pradesh having its surface irrigation sources intact would be able to produce rice more than its domestic requirement enabling thereby sustain the export prospects, the state of Telangana depending largely on ground water source for growing rice, would remain self-sufficient in its rice needs because of large area under rice and relatively higher productivity but might not be left with sizeable surplus for export. Understandably, the state’s emphasis on less water requiring maize and millets, pulses and oilseed crops, cotton and vegetable and horticultural crops appears quite a realistic cropping policy.

For sustained export of rice from Residual Andhra Pradesh, the state would need to have a long term stable rice export policy in place and plan accordingly its strategies to be competitive in pricing and quality in the international market.

Riceoutlook: What changes would you like to make in the rice industry in 2015? or What are the challenges India will face in next five years for gaining its lost crown of world’s top rice exporter?

 E. A Siddiq: India is one of the four major rice exporting countries with Thailand still topping the list in terms of volume. Entered the rice export market with a few lakh tonnes of traditional basmati rice in the early 1990s, India could steadily increase its volume of export of both basmati and non-basmati rices by many folds over the years. By 2013 – 14 the volume rose to 3.75 million tonnes of basmati rice valued at Rs.29,000 crores (at around USD 1000/ton) and close to 5.0 million tonnes of non-basmati rice valued at around Rs. 15,000 crores (at USD 500-600/t). Together,  the volume stood close to 9 million tonnes valued at around Rs.35,000 crores. Of about 98 million tonnes available in excess of domestic requirements of the major rice producing countries, about 39 million tonnes only constitute the tradable volume in the international market. Left with 12 million tonnes of surplus (average of 2007-2011), prospects of raising further the exportable volume after meeting the growing domestic requirement, especially of the need to contribute its share of the 61.4 million tonnes of food grains for Public Distribution System under the Food Security Bill – 2013 and adding proportionately the stipulated volume to the  bufferstock would not be more than 12 million tonnes (8 million tonnes of non-basmati and 4 million tonnes of basmati rices).

Realization of such a target that would enable the country emerge the world’s top exporter of rice in the next few years, would however, be a challenging task, given the changing rice production trends in the large rice importing countries, inevitable stiff competition among the rice exporting countries on pricing and above all compliance with the stringent quality standards. With many of the now rice importing countries making advance in rice production and reducing thereby their deficiency level, rice demand of them is likely to come down necessitating proportionate cutdown in volume from exporting countries. In the international trade, competetiveness in pricing and quality and consistency in supply are important to sustain ourselves in the market.

In the event of decreasing demand and increasing number of exporters unhealthly competition as a result would impact adversely the level of export volume and earnings. In the era of globalized market importing countries are exceedingly watchful on how seriously the exporting countries comply with the stipulated quality standards, especially genetic purity of the indented rice type, food safety and sanitary-phytosanitory requirements. As lapses in any of the above would seriously affect our trade prospects, the country will have to strengthen our regulatory and certification measures. At policy level, the country should have in place relatively long term and stable rice export policy, in the absence of which what happened to our rice trade in 2007-2008 would happen and affect the prospects of our export trade. The decision of the government to ban export of non-basmati rice in 2007 was no doubt with good intension of containing the escalating rice price in the domestic market and protecting thereby the consumer. It was, however at the expense of rice farmers. Finding already rice farming less and less remunerative, farmers of Andhra Pradesh had no better way to express their unhappiness over the ban than by conveying their displeasure by not planting rice over one lakh acres in the District of West Godavari, Andhra Pradesh. Had the ban continued beyond 2011, India would have lost substantially its traditional markets for its non-basmati rice as importers would look for alternate countries to meet their demands. Simultaneously the decision to raise the Minimum Export Price (MEP) for basmati rice (from USD 900 to 2000/t) as a Protectionist Trade Policy, though made our rice less competitive pricewise, the exporters feel the measure to be of no major advantage to the country. It is good that the Government is contemplating withdrawal of MEP.

From development point of view, anticipating increased volume of non-basmati rice in the coming years, there is need for more safe storage and shipping facilities at air/seaports and establishment of a dedicated centre with the mandate of conducting regular market surveys on changing demand trends, tariff/non-tariff barriers and on all other related aspects and providing the feedback to the government and the trade for planning their export policy and strategies.

Riceoutlook: What growth prospect you see in the coming years in rice industry globally?

E.A Siddiq: It is generally believed that with increasing percapita income, rice consumption level would decline and as a result global rice demand would come down. In reality, however, the consumption trend is upward in many of the traditionally rice consuming countries suggesting that the global rice demand would continue to rise. Despite slight decline in the percapita consumption of rice in the major rice consuming countries it is at different paces. Whereas in the high and medium income countries like Japan and Republic of Korea, China, Thailand and Malaysia the pace of decline is rapid over the last 2–4 decades, it is at slow pace in countries of rising income like India, Indonesia and Vietnam. In Bangladesh, The Philippines, Myanmar and Indo-China the consumption level is on the increase. In regions outside Asia, such as sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, Middle East, the USA and European Union, rice consumption is rapidly increasing. This trend is because of consumer preference of rice these days to their traditional calorie staples. Based on the trend of population growth and rising percapita consumption level Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (IFAPRI) has estimated the demand projection to rice from 439 million tonnes of milled rice in 2010 to 496 and 555 million tonnes by 2020 and 2035 respectively. Of this demand,  Asia alone would account for over 67%, despite the declining percapita consumption in the major rice consuming China and India. (IRRI Rice Almanac – 2012).

As for India, the estimated demand of rice by 2020 would be around 114 million tonnes from the current level of 105 million tonnes (at an annual growth rate of 1.6%). This would enable the country export 6 million tonnes of non-basmati and 4 million tonnes of basmati rices. Given the sizeable under exploited otherwise potential rice ecologies and production niches (Scope to narrow down the wide yield gap in the irrigated ecology; exploitation of over 1 million ha of Boro rice area remaining underexploited) and higher yielding varietal technologies (Extensive adoption of new generation rice hybrids and submergence tolerant rainfed lowland varieties), the targeted achievement would not be difficult. The need to achieve the demands projected for the next 10-15 years on a sustainable basis would, however, be a challenge in the face of shrinking natural resources (Water and Soil health) and other socio-economic factors (Dwindling farm return; labour shortage in the rural areas and volatility of market). Although the unfolding technological innovations would help find solution to such constraints, in the absence of favourable policy environment, the achievement of the task ahead would not be easy.

Riceoutlook: How science and technology would help boost rice production in the country?

E.A Siddiq: With very limited scope for horizontal growth, progressive yield growth is the only option to achieve the future demand projections. To achieve the short term projection of 130 million tonnes by 2025 the annual yield growth has to be no less than 1.6%. Technological means to achieve and sustain the stipulated yield growth lie in (a) Maximization of yield by tapping the still not tapped genetic potential in the currently available high yielding varieties by adopting extensively the Integrated Crop Management (ICM) technology, (b) Extensive adoption of new generation hybrids that meet the expectations of rice growers and consumers, (c) Popularization of now available submergence tolerant high yielding varieties and hybrids in the rainfed shallow lowland ecologies in Eastern India, (d) Development and adoption of new plant type (NTP) varieties and intersubspecific (indica/japonica) hybrids in NPT background and  (e) Exploitation of IRRI developed Green Super Rice varieties/hybrids. To achieve the longterm projection of 180 million tonnes by 2050, breeding strategies would be primarily in keeping with the need to raise further the ceiling to genetic yield in irrigated rice, insulating rainfed rices with tolerance to major abiotic stresses and adaptation to the adverse effects of climate change. Research underway to  (a) discover and use the still not captured novel yield genes remaining hidden in the progenitor wild species and primitive cultivars (b) explore the prospects of manipulating biosynthetic pathway of starch and (c) development of climate smart varieties adapted to increasing atmospheric temperature and elevated levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases would help further breach the genetic yield and sustain the needed pace of growth to remain self-sufficient and sizeable surplus for export.