On the world trade front, the end of the coronavirus epidemic will have losers and winners. Some countries’ leverage on the global stage will diminish drastically, while others will rise to take their place. Some of it will depend upon which countries employ the smartest trade policies.
Pakistan can be one of those countries who could see a boost if we play our cards right. Already, our trade in certain sectors seems to be looking up – a huge space has opened up in the global rice market for Pakistan for exporting local rice in potential markets of Middle East, North America and African regions. Rice is the largest agri-export commodity in Pakistan’s export basket with a total value of over $2 billion, and according to Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood, this number could rise to $5 billion in the next five years. Pakistan’s rice exports to the Middle East region has increased by about 59 percent to $420 million in April. One of the reasons for this sudden boost is the decline in the Indian market of basmati rice. Due to India’s lockdown, Pakistan has attempted to take over India’s hegemony over rice exports, in the Middle East.
However, the upturn in rice exports otherwise, it has still been a bad time for exports – according to Pakistan’s Bureau of Statistics (PBS), Pakistan’s exports on month-on-month basis have witnessed a massive decline of 47.24 per cent, from $1.814 billion to $957 million, during April 2020 against March 2020. The government thus then needs to keep prioritising promoting exports in our strong sectors. One such step would be assisting local rice importers in investing in research and development to enhance production and quality of new varieties of rice. Better exports will certainly help Pakistan overcome its balance of payment crisis and provide resources to carry out debt servicing.