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Research on producing export-quality rice

Sri Lanka will export the excess rice produced in the country in the future and rice research programs today focus on developing rice varieties that have demand in the export market, said the Director of the Rice Research and Development Institute (RRDI) of the Department of Agriculture, Dr. Amitha Bentota. Dr. Bentota said that there are short-term and long-term programs to produce export quality rice.

"In the short-term program we will attempt to export two of our rice varieties that meet the export market demand. However, the export demand is for long, slender and sticky rice varieties which we don't produce. There is a demand for high quality Samba varieties as well."

"There is also a niche market for local rice varieties especially from expatriate Sri Lankans for whom exports are already taking place.

Our short term target is to cater to these two markets," she said.

She said that under a long-term plan, RRDI is developing rice varieties with long, slender and sticky properties.

The program is a private-public partnership and the marketing is done by private sector companies.Export demand is high for Basmathi rice varieties produced mainly in Pakistan and India.

This is very competitive market but Sri Lanka cannot produce Basmathi varieties which are grown under special climatic conditions, she said.

Dr. Bentota said that to cater to the export market there should be a sufficient production of the variety we export. Cultivation for export markets will start in the Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Ampara and Mannar districts and initially the two rice varieties will be promoted in these areas, she said.

Analysts said that exporting the excess production of rice is the best solution for the issue faced by the paddy farming community.

It will help to stabilise the market price of paddy at a profitable level and increase farmer income. Despite government subsidies paddy farming is becoming less attractive to new generations.

According to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) for the past four decades, the global rice market has been dominated by a few exporters, Thailand, Vietnam, the United States and Pakistan and they account for 60-70% of total exports.

Thailand is the top rice exporter in the world. The import side is fragmented with many countries importing a small amount of rice and the top six importers account for only 20-30% of the market share.

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