Lahore [Pakistan], May 21 (ANI): The Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP) has expressed concern over a 'shocking and very irresponsible' statement by the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Agriculture Jamshed Cheema, who said that Pakistani farmers are 'intoxicated' with basmati instead of coarse varieties of rice for exports.
According to Dawn, Cheema said that export markets mostly demand coarse varieties of rice, while Pakistani farmers are intoxicated with the basmati variety, which he suggested should only be produced for local consumption. The export association accused Cheema of discouraging sowing of the basmati product.
"This statement is patently false and misleading because we export more than USD 800 million of basmati rice every year," REAP Chairman Abdul Qayyum Paracha said on Thursday.
"Cheema seems to be supporting the Indian application with the European Union claiming exclusive ownership of the Geographical Indication for basmati rice that has been challenged by the Pakistan government as well as the basmati rice traders. Such a damaging stance by a senior official of the government negates all our efforts to safeguard our heritage for centuries in basmati rice besides billions invested in rice mills, export market brand equity etc," he added.
Paracha further said that basmati serves as Pakistan's global ambassador due to its unique aroma and provides livelihood to hundreds of thousands of people in the whole supply chain of the variety.
"Instead of encouraging research and yield increase in basmati crop, which has a potential of more than USD 3 billion export annually, Cheema is discouraging sowing of this heritage product," Dawn quoted the REAP chairman.
The organisation has also appealed to Prime Minister Imran Kahn to demand an explanation from Cheema on his statements and take it back, according to the Pakistani daily. (ANI)