BEIJING :Customs data showed that China imported RMB 1.95 billion worth of paddy and rice from Pakistan in the first 10 months of this year, 3.9 times that of the same period last year.
Pakistan is the third largest rice supplier to China.
In addition, Pakistan once became China’s largest rice supplier in the first five months of this year.
As China and Pakistan further advance agricultural cooperation, Pakistan’s rice exports to China may increase, according to a report published by China Economic Net.
Zhang Jiegen, an associate researcher at the Center for Pakistan Studies at Fudan University, believes that China’s rice market is open to Pakistan in a way that other countries do not enjoy. “China will provide as much quota as possible to Pakistan in order to promote the healthy development of China-Pakistan trade, but Pakistan’s production capacity cannot keep up.”
Many factors affect rice yield. Ch. Muhammad Rafiq, Director of Rice Research Institute Kala Shah Kaku, holds that smog is among the culprits. “When basmati rice is not dried in time, exposure to the air produces aflatoxins. If these factors are excluded, the average yield of crops per acre will increase by 10 to 15 maund (1 maund is about 40kg). “
In Pakistan, many farmers take rice as a cash crop. They use wheat harvester to harvest rice due to the lack of specialized rice harvesters. Shamsul Islam Khan believes that the use of inappropriate combine harvesters affects rice yield. “This leads to grain loss and increases breakage rate. When specialized rice harvesters are used, the yield will increase and the quality of crops will improve.”
Agricultural technology limits rice production, and also has an impact on rice processing. Shamsul Islam Khan said that 40-50% of rice is broken during processing.
In the first five months of this year, Pakistan once became China’s largest rice supplier. The main reason is that China has relaxed its import restrictions on Pakistani rice in recent years. China has approved seven new Pakistani rice exporters to do business in China. So far, the number of Pakistani rice exporters that have got permission to enter the Chinese market has risen to 53.
“There are 1,800 active members in Pakistan’s rice exporters association, and currently over 800 companies export rice from Pakistan,” Faisal Jahangir Malik said. By comparing 53 approved exporters with 1,800 active members, he expressed his expectation that “there is still much room for improvement in the exporter quota”.
China adopts tariff quota policy for corn, wheat and rice, levying a 1 percent tariff on imports within the quota and a 65 percent tariff on imports exceeding the quota.
In 2021, import tariff quotas are 9.636 million tonnes for wheat, 7.2 million tonnes for corn and 5.32 million tonnes for rice, including 2.66 million tons of long-grain rice.
Guo Jiapeng, a businessman engaged in global rice trade in Hong Kong, said. “Pakistani rice is mainly mixed with domestic rice according to a certain proportion to get the best taste.” As domestic rice harvest season has started, the arrival price of Pakistani rice in Hong Kong this year fell all the way from the highest USD 480 per ton to USD 310 per ton.
China’s per capita consumption of rice has been declining year by year. Guo Jiapeng, based on years of trade experience, concluded that the rice that Chinese people have for staple food is decreasing at the rate of 3.5 per year, while the rice used for industrial production is increasing at the rate of 5%.
Among them, broken rice for industrial use is not included in the quota, and the tariff levied on Pakistan’s broken rice export to China is 10. International sellers have set their sight on this “blue ocean market”.
If the quota is a threshold, the preferences and habits of Chinese consumers determine the export prospect of Pakistani rice. Through more than ten years of experience in the Chinese market, Shamsul Islam Khan believes that the appearance of rice plays a key role in the Chinese market, “Chinese consumers’ preference for milled and polished rice leads to an increases in breakage.”
Aman Ullah Khan, a Pakistani trader who has lived in China for over ten years, said that one reason for the poor sales of Pakistani rice in China is the characteristics of basmati rice. “Cooking basmati rice is demanding. The texture of cooked rice will be affected when it’s cooked in electric cookers, so the sales are not satisfactory in China.”
Compared with foreign quality rice, cooked basmati rice gives a soft texture with superior aroma. As cooking it is demanding, currently, basmati rice in China is mainly served in foreign restaurants. Meanwhile, short-grain rice is still the main variety consumed by Chinese people at home.
Thailand is a traditional rice supplier to China. Kesrin Ariyapongse, deputy secretary-general of the Thai Chamber of Commerce in China, holds that one reason why Thai rice has gained a good reputation in the Chinese market is that the eating habit is similar in China and Thailand, so Chinese people accept Thai rice easily.
Fortunately, the Chinese have high recognition and acceptance of foreign food. Shamsul Islam Khan came to a Pakistani restaurant in China in 2018 and saw an amazing sight, “There wasn’t a single Pakistani except me. All were Chinese. They were eating samosas and having a good time. They were tasting Pakistani food, which was a good thing for us. “
If basmati rice wants to gain more recognition in China, high-end positioning is the top priority. Moreover, how to help Chinese consumers make a choice between Pakistani basmati rice and Indian basmati rice is also particularly important. A search for “basmati rice” on a Chinese e-commerce website shows that more than 70% of the products are “Pakistani basmati rice”, and the rest are produced in India.
This has been made possible by the efforts of Chinese and Pakistani rice traders. Badar uz Zaman, Commercial Counsellor of Pakistani Embassy in Beijing, appreciated, “importers have started using e-commerce platforms to sell Pakistani rice, and Pakistani Embassy and Consulates in China have organized several rice related events.”
“Our exporters start to comprehend Chinese taste for rice, participate and exhibit in different exhibitions and trade fairs actively, and learn about packaging requirements for products sold in the Chinese market,” said Badar uz Zaman.
Kesrin Ariyapongse also suggested that Pakistani exporters should make adjustments for the habits of Chinese consumers. “Packaging improvement and constant product upgrading will allow the Chinese to accept easily.”
“China is a large rice importer. Our exports can be increased many folds!” said Imran Sheikh, a Pakistani rice trader.
Sino-Pak agricultural cooperation is all-round. Pakistan is eager not only to export its agricultural products to China, but also to bring Chinese investors with capital and technology to improve its agricultural sector. “Chinese technology can be seen everywhere around the world now.”
He has been engaged in cooperation with Chinese companies. “We have made new machines by mixing local machines with those imported from China, Thailand and other countries. We have reached an agreement with our Chinese counterparts to cooperate in setting up a rice processing plant,” said Shamsul Islam Khan.
Before Chinese agricultural machines entered Pakistan, high prices kept farmers away and hindered the development of agricultural mechanization. “In the past, the prices of these machines were quite high. For example, color sorter machines from Japan were extraordinary expensive. Now we import them from China because of lower cost and good rejection quality,” Shamsul Islam Khan said.
The combine harvester mentioned above is also a good aspect of cooperation. Faisal Jahangir Malik said that Pakistan needs Chinese rice harvesters and transplanters. “Like the tray paddy transplanter, rice seedlings can be spread on the tray.
Furthermore, it can increase yield by 5% to 7%. Pakistani farmers need equipment, education and training to modernize agriculture.”
Chinese agricultural machines enter Pakistan relatively late, but they cost less and are in line with the habits of local farmers. In this way, upgrading of local agricultural technology and realization of agricultural machinery localization can come true in Pakistan.
In response to Pakistan’s agricultural technology, Hussain Haider, Consulate General of Pakistan in Shanghai, holds that Pakistan needs to modernize its agricultural sector. In this case, Chinese assistance, investment and expertise can play a key role in mechanization of agriculture, use of modern technology and improvement of productivity.
Pakistan has about 10 million hectares of saline alkali land. In this regard, Ch. Muhammad Rafiq is more interested in cooperation with agricultural colleges. “A large portion of our land is under the effect of salinity. We are still running breeding programs with old traditional methods and are not using the genetic engineering aid. We hope to cooperate with Chinese agricultural colleges.”
Deep processing is a good opportunity for Pakistani rice to overtake if it wants to stand out from the fierce competition in the rice export market. As carbon constraints tighten, the gap in China’s starch market is widening, and the production of industrial products such as fast food boxes made from corn starch and rice starch is expanding.
Guo Jiapeng believes that by using Chinese fermentation technology, the added value of Pakistani rice can be improved through deep processing biodegradable materials in China after initial processing in Pakistan.
According to Shamsul Islam Khan, in addition to agricultural technology, he hopes that China can make extensive investment in Pakistan’s agriculture sector, and that more Chinese companies will “contract land” in Pakistan, as it has a large area of open, uncultivated land due to lack of agricultural technology.
“After Chinese and Saudi companies went to Africa, they turned it into fertile land. 22% of Pakistan’s area is cultivated land, but there are still a wild stretch of land that is uncultivated. If China’s drip irrigation technology is adopted, it may also yield rice.”
However, not all Pakistani farmers will accept Chinese technology. Zhang Genjie told CEN reporter a story, “Once an entrepreneur from a Chinese agribusiness talked about cooperation with a big landlord in Islamabad. The Chinese entrepreneur said that if the production technology was applied, the yield increased two to three folds, but the Pakistani landlord showed no interest.
He said that the current practice could ensure an annual income of tens of millions of rupees. Why to change?” Zhang Jiegen believes that with the introduction of international cooperation and capital, an action forcing mechanism will be formed to accelerate the adaptation of local agriculture sector to international market demand.
Traditionally, seed industry, agricultural machinery, agricultural materials, and product processing have been the main areas of agricultural cooperation between China and Pakistan.
Pakistanis involved in rice business have started imagining scenarios of applying information technology to agricultural farming. Shamsul Islam Khan proposes to develop an application for rice farmers that would allow them to stay in touch with the agriculture department in real time, and the agricultural department would advise them on watering schedules and others.
Pakistani rice is harvested by Chinese harvesters and then exported to the Chinese market according to Chinese packaging standards… This is the pursuit of countless Pakistani rice practitioners. As Badar uz Zaman said, “In the next few years, I think Pakistan will become the largest player in the Chinese rice import market.”