With the peak harvest season underway, supply of rice and paddy prices are showing a decline. Harvesting of the crop is in full swing in paddy growing upper Sindh, where it is the only crop of the kharif season. Apart from old varieties of basmati-9, ‘subdasi’, Shahkar, Shandar, KSK282, irri-6 etc, China’s hybrid seed is used for getting better yields. Hybrid seed has been preferred for domestic consumption by many growers ever-since it was introduced. But the hybrid variety lacks aroma and taste and that’s why it is not exported to the Gulf region. The seed also cannot be stored by farmers for the next season’s sowing. Whereas irri-6 tastes better, has a long grain size and can be stored. It was most sought after in Dubai and Saudi Arabia for these reasons. Farmers say the miller-exporter nexus ultimately hits the growers’ income. Millers also make growers pay offloading charges at Rs10/bag; and with no mechanism defined to determine moisture in the crop, growers have to accept the millers’ price. Before the peak season till mid-October, farmers from upper Sindh, super basmati still managed to get a rate of Rs 37 per kg and the aromatic variety grown in Kirthar range Rs 27 per kg. Price for the crop that is stocked by rice millers usually increases in the winter season when exporters place new orders.
In a meeting held in Karachi on Oct 17, which was chaired by the provincial agriculture minister and attended both by rice miller and farmers, it was decided that no deduction would be made on any crop that undergoes mechanized thrashing. Moisture has been allowed in acceptable limits and unloading charges of Rs 5 are to be paid jointly by farmers and millers. However, this is not being followed. Rice millers are claiming losses too. Sindh Chamber of Agriculture (SCA) president Dr Syed Nadeem Qamar maintains that the provincial government doesn’t control exports nor does it fix the price for the paddy crop. Gone are the days when the federal government used to intervene by lifting paddy through the Trading Corporation of Pakistan and Pakistan Agriculture Storages and Supplies Corporation.