Pakistan has rice available for export: dealers

Pakistan will have up to 3 million tonnes of rice available for export this year despite the worst floods in its modern history that damaged nearly 28 percent of the crop, traders said on Wednesday.

Floods have affected more than 708,000 hectares (1.7 million acres) of rice out of the total 2.64 million hectares, according to government estimates. Production losses are feared at around two million tonnes.

The government had set an output target of 6 million tonnes from the 2010/11 crop. The country consumes about 2.2 million tonnes annually and is the world’s fifth largest exporter of the grain.

“The damage assessment is still ongoing, but even in the worst case scenario, we will have an output of between 4 million and 4.5 million tonnes,” Malik Muhammad Jahangir, chairman of the Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan, told Reuters.

“The situation is not so bad, as we have stocks from the previous crop also. I think we can still export between 2.5 million and 3 million tonnes.”

Pakistan has about half a million tonnes of milled rice from the previous crop and mainly exports long grain Basmati rice to the Middle East, Europe and Asia.

A US Department of Agriculture attache report, issued on Aug. 31, revised rice production estimates for Pakistan to 4.4 million tonnes from the 2010/11 crop.

The attache report, which is not official USDA data, likewise reduced Pakistan’s rice exports for 2010/11 to an estimated 2.3 million tonnes.

Rice is Pakistan’s third biggest crop after wheat and cotton and contributes about 1.6 percent to the country’s gross domestic product.

Pakistan had a bumper crop of 6.7 million tonnes of milled rice in 2009/10 and exported about 4.5 million tonnes, traders say.

“Despite floods damage, we will be having a surplus of up to 3 million tonnes that has to be exported as it cannot be consumed here,” said Muhammad Azhar Akhtar, former REAP president and owner of Mazco Industries (pvt) Ltd.