The Punjab government is in a catch-22 situation. When the results of diversification are showing up with the basmati rice production expected to touch an alltime high of 35-38 lakh tonnes in the current kharif season, there are scarce means to lift and process the crop within the state.
Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal is meeting all stakeholders on Saturday to find the way out.
He will meet agriculture minister Tota Singh and food and civil supplies minister Adesh Partap Singh Kairon along with senior officials of the departments of agriculture, food and civil supplies and excise. State farmers’ commission chairman GS Kalkat will also attend the meeting.
“Diversification would have no meaning in case the government failed to facilitate the lifting of basmati. In the absence of minimum support price of basmati, we are depending on traders and exporters. Here, the gover nment’s role is to make things conducive to farmers so that they get maximum buyers for their crop,” said an agriculture department official.
As sources revealed, despite opposition from the traders from Punjab, the state government is planning to encourage traders from Haryana.
Traders and basmati exporters from Punjab and Haryana have also been called to the meeting.
Area under basmati cultivation has increased from 5.5 lakh hectares in the previous kharif season to 8.1 lakh tonne. Slow-lifting of the crop is expected this season as the total basmati in the state is expected to be worth Rs 12,000 crore.
Crop has begun arriving in mandis of Fazilka, Abohar, Tarn Taran , Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Batala areas.
At a meeting between Punjab agriculture minister Tota Singh and senior officials of the department last week, a consensus was reached that a uniform tax system should be worked out to encourage traders from Punjab, Haryana and other states for lifting the basmati.
In the previous season, Punjab traders were given a tax exemption of about 11%, which included 2% market fee, 2% rural development fund (RDF), 3% infrastructure development tax and 4% purchase tax.
But, there was no exemption for traders from other states. The state government is expected to re-work the tax levied at the time of lifting of the crop. Tota Singh said farmers had still not received the payment for last year’s basmati crop as Rs 490 crore was still pending.
He said they wanted to encourage traders from outside and avoid zoning, adding that Punjab wanted more buyers for basmati so that farmers could get good price for their crop
Last year, basmati fetched a price of Rs 2,200 to 2,400 per quintal, whereas in Haryana, it touched Rs 3,500 per quintal.
By bringing in traders from outside, the state government also wants to break the monopoly of the Punjab traders.