Basmati acreage in Patiala dips 50% over last year | punjab | Hindustan Times
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Basmati acreage in Patiala dips 50% over last year

punjab Updated: Jul 10, 2015 20:42 IST
Navrajdeep Singh
Navrajdeep Singh
Hindustan Times
Patiala

The state government's plan to move towards diversification of the crop pattern and encourage farmers to shift away from wheat and water-guzzling varieties of paddy by presenting basmati cultivation as an option has not been able to convince farmers.

In Patiala district, the area under basmati cultivation has come down from 37,500 hectares last season to around 16,000 hectares this year, a drop of almost 50%. In 2013, basmati was grown on 19,500 hectares.

Experts claim that poor policy planning by the state government and the bitter experience of farmers last season, when prices crashed have led to the decreased acreage of the crop.

Last season, farmers were paid only between Rs 1,800 and 2,200 per quintal against Rs 2,800-3,600 in 2013.

In fact, the state government proactively stepped into the promotion of basmati in 2013 to diversify the traditional cycle of wheat and paddy. However, after the first year, prices crashed in 2014 and farmers are afraid to take another chance now.

Sources said the reduced area under basmati proved that the government had failed to win the confidence from farmers.

Agriculture development officer Arvinder Singh Mann claimed that the department had promoted basmati varieties this year too.

"The sowing season is at its end. Interestingly, after reports of basmati prices rising in the international market, there was some demand for basmati variety 1121. This year, there has been no demand for the 1509 variety."

Farmers also responsible

Last year's crash in basmati prices that has made farmers extra-cautious this year, also resulted because everyone wanted to grow paddy. Against the expert advice of increasing the acreage under basmati only by 10%, farmers took to basmati and the acreage grew 50%.

In 2014, the area under basmati across the state increased from 5.5 lakh hectares in 2013 to 8.6 lakh hectares. This led to a glut and the consequent crash in prices.

Commission agents not to purchase basmati

Farmers have also been influenced by a decision by the commission agents not to buy basmati this year.

Commission agents have installed warning signs at several grain markets and villages across Patiala district, appealing to farmers not to go with basmati varieties due to last year's bitter experience.

Most agents claim that due to stagnation in the basmati export business, they were yet to receive payments for from private traders for basmati sold last year. Some estimates put the unpaid amount a Rs 120 crore.

"What is point of sowing basmati varieties when there are no purchasers? Private traders did not do well last year, so we cannot bank upon them to lift stock this year," said Gurdhian Singh, a farmer from Paharpur village.

Why the aversion

Experts claim that poor policy planning by the state government and bitter experience of farmers last season, when prices crashed have led to the decreased acreage of the crop.

Due to a glut like situation last season, farmers were paid only between Rs 1,800 and 2,200 per quintal against Rs 2,800-3600 in 2013.

Most agents claim that due to stagnation in the basmati export business, they were yet to receive payments for from private traders for basmati sold last year. Some estimates put the unpaid amount at Rs 120 crore.

What is point of sowing basmati varieties when there are no purchasers? Private traders did not do well last year, so we cannot bank upon them to lift stock this year.

Gurdhian Singh, a farmer from Paharpur village