As Punjab is expecting a two-fold increase in basmati production this kharif season, the state government is thinking of involving traders from other states, particularly Haryana, for lifting of the crop. A decision is awaited from the state while the crop has begun arriving in mandis of Fazilka and Abohar areas.
In a meeting between the Punjab agriculture minister Tota Singh and senior officials of the department, on Wednesday, a consensus was reached that a uniform tax system should be worked out to encourage traders from Haryana and other states for lifting of basmati.
Punjab Mandi Board vicechair man Ravinder Singh Cheema, who was present at Wednesday’s meeting, said that 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.
Agriculture minister Tota Singh said, “Farmers have still not received payment for last year’s basmati crop; ` 490 crore is pending. We want to encourage traders from outside and avoid zoning.” But the final decision is left to CM Parkash Singh Badal.
According to Cheema, Haryana government charged traders 7% as tax for lifting of basmati. “We are planning to bring taxes on par with Haryana to encourage more buyers for our crop,” said Cheema. Basmati traders can’t be allowed a total tax exemption because there are market committees in Jalalabad, Tarn Taran, Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Muktsar and Sirhind areas where basmati constitutes 90% of the crop arrival in kharif season. These committees may go without any income in case of a total exemption, said Cheema.
Tota Singh had already announced that Punjab was not competent to handle milling and processing of basmati this season as it required sophisticated machines.
According to figures from various sources, basmati is sown over 6.5 lakh hectares in the state, which is about 25% of the total 28 lakh hectares under paddy cultivation. As much as 40 lakh tonne of basmati is expected to be produced this season, which is 30% of the total estimated paddy production in the state.