The farmers of Patiala are a disappointed lot as basmati rice varieties are fetching a lot lesser compared to last year, ahead of the season which starts on October 1.
The farmers had set their hopes high as the variety was a hit last year. As a result of last year's response, the state had even doubled the area under basmati cultivation from 19,500 hectare to 37,500 hectare this year.
So far, about 8,736 metric tonne of basmati and 149 metric tonne of parmal varieties have arrived in markets.
Farmers are getting rs2100-rs2800 per quintal for different varieties and rs1300 for parmal variety.
Last year, basmati growers made lucrative deals as they got rs3,000-rs3,500 per quintal for basmati varieties and rs1,310 per quintal for non-basmati varieties. Internationally reputed rice companies paid as much as rs5,500 for high quality basmati varieties due to heavy demand in the international market.
"The price is a lot lower than last year.
But, it is only the start of the season. We are hoping that farmers will at least get prices which are on par with last year's rates," said chief agricultural officer Dr Jasbir Singh Sandhu.
But, analysis of the initial days of the procurement shows that farmers have not got even 75% of last year's amount.
Though the procurement season begins formally from October 1, basmati varieties have already reached several grain markets including Nabha, Bhunerheri, Patiala and Rajpura.
Meanwhile, private traders are reaping windfall profits by quoting prices according to their will.
In the absence of proper marketing and minimum support prices, such local traders and private agencies are these farmers' main buyers as government agencies do not buy from them.
A senior official from a procurement agency said that farmers being exploited and a sharp dip in prices at the start of season were causes for concern. Farmers should be aware of this before increasing cultivation area, especially for paddy, he said.
"The government should also ensure proper prices and marketing techniques before promoting basmati varieties. This season will be a game changer.
If farmers get good prices, they will continue with basmati cultivation, otherwise they may revert to non-basmati varieties," said the official.
Other varieties are expected to hit the market by October 5.