HYDERABAD, April 2: The provincial Crop Management Committee on Rice has taken notice of decrease in the area under rice cultivation in Sindh and stressed the need for improving quality and per acre yield of the crop by adopting modern methods of farm management.

The meeting was held in Karachi on Thursday, presided over by Sindh Food and Agriculture Minister Arif Mustafa Jatoi and attended by representatives of rice exporters, growers, millers, crop experts and officers of the agriculture department.

The decrease in rice production was attributed to poor water availability and change of cropping pattern in rice growing areas of upper Sindh where rice farmers had switched over to cotton.

There was a consensus at the meeting that more area could not be brought under rice cultivation under the prevailing situation, therefore emphasis should be on exploitation of potential yield of the crop by integrated farm management under modern methods.

The meeting was of the view that to make the crop more economically viable, efforts should be made to bridge the gap between present and potential yield per acre.

The committee stressed that the Irri variety of rice should be replaced by new high-yield verities. It discussed popular high yield varieties of Vietnam, Philippines and Thailand and suggested that a team of crop experts and scientists should visit the countries to study the entire process of rice cultivation.

The poor availability of combined harvesters was also discussed and it was decided that the matter would be taken up with the Japanese delegation expected to arrive in Pakistan shortly.

Speaking at the meeting, Mr Jatoi said that after devolution of agriculture extension services, the district governments had more responsibility of developing the agriculture sector as most of the district Nazims belonged to farmers community and were aware of the problems confronted by the rural population.

He said that efforts were being made to offer more incentives to growers such as increase in the amount of production loans, tractor schemes and modernization of agriculture-based industries.

A meeting of the provincial Sugarcane Crop Management Committee was also held soon after the rice committee meeting.

It called for evolving a viable policy to bring an end to price controversy between the sugarcane growers and sugar mill management's which had become an annual feature.

The president, Sindh Chamber of Agriculture, Syed Qamar Zaman Shah, suggested that sugarcane zone should be set up in sugarcane growing areas and where enough water was not available, low delta and high value crop like edible oil-seed should be encouraged.

He also proposed that marketing and availability of seed on reasonable price should be ensured.

The area and production target is expected to be finalised by the federal agriculture committee schedule to meet soon in Islamabad.

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