GOLARCHI: Cooperation between Pakistan and China under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) enabled Pakistan to export hybrid rice seeds for the first time in the country’s agricultural history, indicating that the cooperation between the two countries was expanding to other sectors, including agriculture. The initial shipment, consisting of 50 to 100 metric tonnes of seeds locally developed with technical assistance from China, would be exported to Philippines, said Guard Agricultural Research and Services senior executive Shahrukh Malik. He was speaking to journalists during a visit to the rice fields in Golarchi, 177 km from the port city of Karachi. “The country is all set to export seeds to Vietnam and India as well”, Malik said adding that “the climate in which hybrid rice seeds are bred in Sindh is similar to that of Philippines”. “The environment in Pakistan’s Golarchi area is even better than that of China for hybrid rice”, said Chai, one of the Chinese agriculturists working on the project, adding that the transfer of technology in the agriculture sector would not only enable Pakistan to increase its per acre production but to make it a base for the supply of hybrid rice to other parts of the region. Guard Agricultural Research and Services and Chinese organization Longping had been working in collaboration to produce hybrid rice in the country. Longping was founded by Yuan Longping widely known as China’s ‘father of hybrid rice’. Yuan, who developed the world’s first hybrid rice in 1974, has also set three world records in hybrid rice yield in 1999, 2005 and 2011. Hybrid rice is produced by crossbreeding different kinds of rice. Yuan’s team had been working in around 42 hybrid rice test fields in 16 provincial regions across China, including Yunnan, Sichuan, Shaanxi, Guangdong, Chongqing and Hunan since the beginning of the year. The varieties of rice being produced in Pakistan are known best for their moisture and heat tolerance qualities and high yields. “At least 44 companies are importing hybrid seeds but none of them is producing hybrid seeds in Pakistan, which is an obstacle in the transfer of technology to the country”, Malik observed adding Philippines needs the seeds for 2018 crop owing to which the production area had been increased to 900 acres to meet the growing demand. Malik was confident that Pakistan would soon achieve $2 billion rice export mark. “In the past, talk of $1 billion rice export target was considered a joke but now it is a reality. We have the potential to export more rice with the increasing production of hybrid rice”, he added. The increasing production had also been changing the life style of local farmers’ community and of those who indirectly depend on farming in the area. Introduction of the hybrid rice in the area of Golarchi also widely impacted the output to a large extent. “About ten years ago, our production was not more than 50-60 maund per acre but now it has gone up to 90-110 maund per acre”, said Muhammad Iqbal, a local farmer. Better yield has not only increased living standard of local population but has also increased the school enrolment, though in private school. “We are sending our children to the private schools so that they could get better education”, Iqbal added. The land which according to locals was burden for farmers due to low yield has now turned into “gold mine”, as the prices have also gone up by manifold. Meantime many rice mills have popped up, increasing from 10 to around 100 since 1999. In Golarchi hybrid rice is sown at around 45000 acre of land while in Badin it cover area of 200,000 acres, resulting over 92 percent of crop consists of only hybrid rice. “Those who were barefooted and now afford motorcycles and those with motorcycles can now avail four wheel vehicles”, a farmer commented on the level of development the residents have experienced. Published in Daily Times, October 12th 2017.