Rice crop 2008/09 seen over 6m tonnes

Pakistan’s rice output should rise at least 10 percent to over 6 million tonnes in the 200809 fiscal year on a larger planted area, officials and growers said on Thursday, and exports could top 4 million tonnes.
A large rice harvest would add to the picture of growing supplies that has seen Asian benchmark prices come off 30 percent from a record high reached in March.
Pakistan, the world fifth-largest rice exporter, produced 5.5 million tonnes of rice in the year to June and exported 3.33 million tonnes.
Fresh grain will start flowing to the market in late August, according to rice traders.
“There is nearly a 10 percent increase in the cultivation area and the production is likely between 6.2-6.4 million tonnes,” said Ibrahim Mughal, chairman of the Agri-Forum, a farmers’ association.
“Several farmers switched over to rice from cotton because of rising prices for the grain both in domestic as well as international markets.”
The government has set a production target of 5.7 million tonnes for the 200809 year, but Food Ministry officials were also hoping output will top 6 million tonnes.
The rice crop was targeted to be grown over an area of 2.5 million hectares (6.177 million acres).
Rice exporters however expected a harvest of around 7 million tonnes from the new crop, thanks to early rains and farmers using better inputs to enhance yield.
“With this kind of output, we will be touching 5 million tonnes in rice exports in this financial year,” said Azhar Akhtar, chairman of the private Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan, which handles the bulk of the country’s rice exports.
Pakistan’s eight-month-long rice season runs from April to November. Final estimates of the crop could be made in late December. Rice accounts for about 8 percent of Pakistani exports and 1.2 percent of gross domestic product.
Annual domestic consumption of rice is about 2.3 million tonnes.
Domestic prices doubled this year despite a good crop, as exporters took advantage of a tight global market. Pakistan exported 3.33 million tonnes of rice in 200708, from 3.12 million tonnes the year before, with the value of exports up 61.53 percent at $1.18 billion, according to official data. Exports of basmati rice increased by over 40 percent to 1.28 million tonnes, while other varieties declined by nearly 7 percent to 2.06 million tonnes.

Copyright Reuters, 2008