LAHORE - The 'Pak-Saudi Investors Conference' is being held in Riyadh next month, as Saudi Arabia is contemplating to invest in Pakistan's agriculture sector in an effort to ensure adequate food supplies especially rice. Sources in the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock (Minfal) on Tuesday said that the Federal Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs Syed Naveed Qamar would lead a delegation of top rice growers, exporters and agriculturists to attend this conference to be held in Riyadh and Jeddah on October 20th and 21st respectively. The country's leading rice growers and agriculturists have also forwarded their recommendations to the MINFAL and Finance Ministry to be presented in the conference during next month, sources maintained. The sources further revealed that the Ministry of Finance, MINFAL, Commerce and Ministry of Privatisation and Investment are also finalising their proposals in this regard. The agri-experts believed that in rice, Pakistan has comparative advantage of hybrid rice technology over other contenders like Thailand, Egypt and Sudan besides among other countries under consideration of Saudis. "This technology has been successfully commercialised and hybrid rice has been cultivated on about 300,000 acres with rice farmers reaping double the yield compared to conventional rice varieties in Pakistan," said Shahzad Ali Malik, Chief Executive Guard Agricultural Research and Services limited. He also said that the Saudis investment would not only boost Pakistan's agriculture sector but also bring foreign exchange in the country. "We must enhance our full cooperation with the Saudi Arabia to improve our economy as Saudis are interested in rice farming in Pakistan, one of the leading rice producer country in the world," Shahzad Malik added. He further said that recently the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Philippines, for the first time has acknowledged that the only solution to rice crisis lies in the cultivation of high yielding rice varieties and that hybrid rice is on top of technologies available. "IRR1 now has been recommended following the China model, which is successfully being adopted in Pakistan," he maintained. Besides commercialisation of hybrid rice in Pakistan we, as a company, have the distinction of being among the three other companies in the world to have developed a unique supply chain based on an ambitious Research and Development (R&D) programme for inbredl-hybrid seed development and production, crop agronomy, milling, branding and export. He further claimed only their institute in Pakistan have developed the concept of seed to plate in the field of rice. The first to develop this concept was Thailand's CP group (Chia Tai seed) way back in 1921. The second to reach this milestone was Pakistan (Guard Agri.) in 1989. The third was USA (Rice-Tech Inc.) and the latest to do so is China (Yuan Longping) the inventor of hybrid rice technology. He further said that Pakistan is ahead of other nations having already achieved hybridisation. "What we lack at this time is quantifiable data. In fact, the government has yet to monitor and gather data for this sector. We can see the difference hybridisation has made to our socio-economic conditions, but are unable to quantify the same, in the absence of the required data. We need to provide definite numbers to prospective investors like the Saudis and this can only be done at the government level to lend it the necessary authenticity, he added. Therefore, the government should focus on the area under hybrid cultivation, with a view to gathering, tabulating and disseminating the data as this is set to grow further in the coming years, putting Pakistan in an even better position to attract investment in agriculture. He also said that Pakistan must grab this opportunity with both hand as the government of Saudi Arabia is contemplating investment in the agriculture sector in an effort to ensure adequate food supplies especially rice because agriculture is the mainstay of our economy.