At the near season-end, the rates of basmati have declined by about Rs 500 per quintal compared to those prevailing in the beginning of the season when it was selling at around Rs 3,000 per quintal. Last year, the rates of basmati had crossed Rs 4,500 per quintal during the same period.
However, as the agriculture department had discouraged the farmers from going ahead with more area under it cautioning a glut, no such situation is being faced by the farmers during this season.
"The rates of basmati have come down by nearly Rs 500 since the beginning of this season, but I still think that farmers are at least earning some profit by saving on inputs. Basmati requires far less water and fertilisers than paddy. Higher input costs make paddy unprofitable for farmers. If the government fixes the minimum support price of basmati at around Rs 2,000 per quintal, most of the farmers would stop growing paddy," said Mohinder Kumar, a commission agent from Faridkot.
"The uncertainty of the prices keeps many farmers off from growing basmati, but it is the only crop that can replace paddy in the area. If compared to paddy, it is far better both for farmers and water resources. The area may still increase under it next year," said Manoj Chawla, another commission agent.
But the bidding, which was nearly Rs 1,700 to Rs 1,900 per quintal for some varieties of basmati today in the local grain market, left many farmers disappointed. "The same variety of basmati was selling at about Rs 2,100 to 2,200, but now there is a fall of prices by about Rs 500 per quintal. If the area under it increases from the next year, it may further come down. Paddy gives us assured return," they said.
"The rates of basmati, which were above Rs 3,000 in the beginning of this season, have fallen down to about Rs 2,500. But in our opinion, nearly 85% of the produce has already been sold by the farmers. But, if compared to last year, the prices have been too low this year," said Sanjay Mittal, a commission agent from Faridkot.
The different varieties of basmati are selling from Rs 1,700 to the highest of Rs 2,600 per quintal in Kotkapura and Faridkot grain markets.
However, despite the dip in prices, Kulbir Singh Matta, district mandi officer, said that the area under basmati would increase the next season.
"There was a three-fold increase in the area under basmati from about 7,000 to 20,000 hectares. But if not so high, still the rates have not hit the farmers. They expected them to stay at around Rs 2,500 to Rs 3,000 per quintal against the unexpectedly higher rates last year. So the farmers area till encouraged about the crop," said Amandeep Keshav, project director, agriculture technology management agency.