The rice millers and exporters association, Punjab, on Tuesday announced that it was geared up to lift and shell the entire basmati paddy produce without the state government’s intervention.
The association was reacting to apprehensions raised by the state government and its proposal to take help from millers from neighbouring Haryana for lifting and milling of basmati, the production of which is expected to double this year as compared to last year.
Punjab agriculture minister Tota Singh has already invited rice milers from Haryana, seeking their help for lifting and shelling basmati in Punjab.
The millers clarified that basmati produce from the state did not have to be shelled in Haryana as the arrangements were adequate. While the state agriculture department says that basmati is sown over 6.5 lakh hectares, rice millers have claimed that area under basmati (Pusa 1121, 1509 and traditional varieties) is 7.8 lakh hectares in the state.
“The Punjab basmati rice industry has grown manifold with the policy initiated by the state government to waive market fee and rural development fund (2% each) on the lifting of the crop,” said association director Ashok Sethi, adding that as a result, farmers were choosing basmati varieties over the coarse paddy grain.
Sethi said the concessions had attracted new investment worth more than Rs 500 crore, thereby adding fresh production capacity of 300 metric tonnes per hour, which resulted in 30% growth in the area under basmati crop cultivation this year.
“We are alarmed by statements made by some persons, creating a fear psychosis that the existing industry does not have sufficient milling capacity to lift the increased basmati produce this year, and policy-makers were looking at the option of extending benefits of rural development fund and market fee exemption to millers and traders from other states to purchase the bumper crop from Punjab,” said association president Arvinder Pal Singh.
Sethi pointed that the Punjab government had imposed 5.5 % as advance tax on the import of paddy from other states, depriving its own industry of purchasing basmati and rice varieties that were not grown in Punjab.
“The state government is denying us the opportunity to run our units to full capacity,” he said, adding that some states were enjoying zero-VAT regime on foodgrains, whereas in Punjab they were paying 5.5% VAT.