ISLAMABAD, April 17: No timely action by the relevant ministries has led to complete suspension of Pakistani rice exports to Russia. This has not only deprived the country of precious foreign exchange but also proved damaging for its image, Dawn has learnt.

“The government either seemed helpless or lacking interest to convince the Russian government to withdraw the ban imposed very recently on rice imports from Pakistan,” a leading rice exporter on condition of anonymity told Dawn on Tuesday.

The Russian government had banned import of all kinds of Pakistani rice on the plea that it carried a fungus named - Kapra Beetle - which was not suitable for consumption. Interestingly, the fungus is only carried in grains and not in rice.

The exporter claimed that the lukewarm response of the agriculture and commerce ministries towards the objections raised by the Russian Quarantine Department alleging that Pakistani rice carried the fungus led to losing of the new emerging rice market for exporters.

“Had the Pakistani ministries taken up the issue seriously and promptly, the Russian government would not have opted to this extreme step,” the exporter claimed and added that this showed the negligence of these ministries.

“With this the commerce and agriculture ministries have added one more failure to their account,” the exporter deplored.

Russia is the second country, after Mexico, which has imposed ban on rice imports from Pakistan on charges of Kapra Beetle.

Interestingly, the Russian quarantine department also reported the similar fungus in the Indian rice but the timely action of the New Delhi saved the Indian exporters from losing the biggest Russian market.

The exporter said that the plant protection department of the agriculture ministry issued certificates for export of rice to all countries including Russia. “If the rice carried the fungus then how it was cleared by the plant protection department,” he posed a question.

The inefficiency of the relevant department has earned bad name for the country, while the ministry of agriculture has yet to take up the issue seriously with the Russian authorities.

Some of the traders had bought second-hand jute bags from the food department for shipment of rice to Russia and these bags were said to have carried the Kapra Beetle, the exporter opined.

“Although Russia is not a major market for Pakistani rice, it gives a wrong signal to the world market about the quality of our rice,” the exporter added.

“We all know that Pakistan is major exporter of rice to the European Union member countries, especially the UK. Europe has very tough standards about the quality of rice if Pakistani rice meets those standards then it means that the Russian ban is illegal,” he observed.

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