A vendor scoops a measure of rice from a bag at a market in the district of Faisalabad in Punjab, Pakistan. Image Credit: Agency

Islamabad: Russia has lifted its ban on the import of rice from Pakistan after two years – a move that would help Pakistani rice growers boost their earnings. Pakistan exported approximately 35,000 tonnes of rice and other grains worth $40-50 million each year to Russia until 2019.

“Russia has lifted the ban on import of rice from Pakistan from 11 June 2021” based on implementation of phytosanitary measures proposed by the Ministry of Food Security Department of Plant Protection (DPP) of Quarantine Division, the official statement said.

Initially, Russian National Plant Protection Organization (NPPO) has approved the import from four rice enterprises – two from Karachi, one from Lahore and one from Chiniot. The permission to other rice units shall be subject to virtual verification by DPP.

Deputy Director Technical Quarantine of DPP Sohail Shahzad had been negotiating with Russia for the past year for the removal of the ban on rice from Pakistan, according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Food Security. He provided Russia all required technical information, assurances on Pakistan Plant Quarantine system, pest surveillance and control programme in the rice-growing area and rice establishments. Trade Minister Pakistan Embassy Russia Nasir Hameed took up the issue and pursued the matter with the Russian authorities.

Russia banned the import of Pakistani rice in May 2019 after the detection of the Khapra beetle in a rice consignment shipped from Pakistan.

Increase rice exports

Pakistan is one of the top five exporting countries of rice in the world. Pakistan produces around 7.4m tonnes of rice annually of which nearly 4m tonnes are exported.

Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhar Imam said on Friday that the move can lead to a “significant increase in rice exports to Russian markets as well as other high-end markets.” He commended the efforts of DPP, Ministry of Commerce that remained in close coordination with the Pakistan embassy in Moscow and “played a vital role for the resumption of local rice exports to Russian markets.”

Move to help fetch up to $300m

Minister Fakhar hoped that the resumption of rice exports to Russian markets would help in fetching an additional $200 to $300 million each year, which would essentially benefit the local growers. The agriculture growth was directly linked with the prosperity of over 8.94 million farming families in Pakistan, he said, adding that the government has introduced measures and incentives to protect them and ensure support to farming communities.

Pakistan and Russia trade

Bilateral trade between Pakistan and Russia witnessed an increase reaching an all-time high of $790 million last year. The two countries agreed to diversify and increase bilateral ties in the fields of energy, industrial modernisation, railways and aviation during Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visit to Islamabad in April 2021. Last month, Islamabad and Moscow signed the amended agreement to build the 1,100-km-long Pakistan Stream gas pipeline described as a “flagship strategic venture” to strengthen bilateral cooperation.