Exporters who cry hoarse over the indiscriminate use of pesticides, fungicides and other chemicals by farmers of Punjab on the basmati crop, need to reverse their opinion, as laboratory tests have now confirmed that the basmati rice grain is free from all such chemical residues.
Around 150 samples of basmati grain, collected from various areas in the districts of Amritsar, Tarn Taran and Gurdaspur, have confirmed that there is no presence of any chemical residue in the grain.
“We took 150 samples of basmati grain from different basmati growing areas of the three border districts. These samples were minutely tested at Punjab Agricultural University recently. None of the samples contained any chemical residue”, said Dr Gurdev Singh, consultant with the Revival of Green Revolution (RGR) cell of the Navajlai Rattan Tata Trust (NRTT).
The RGR cell of NRTT is active among the basmati growers of the border areas of Amritsar, Tarn Taran and Gurdaspur. A total of 150 villages in the three districts have been adopted by NRTT.
Talking to HT after visiting the basmati fields in Kohali village in Chogawan Block on Friday, Dr Gurdev Singh said, “We decided to undertake the tests as we were worried about the claims being made by exporters that basmati grown in Punjab was laced with heavy doses of chemical sprays”.
The claim about presence of chemical residue was made last year by R Sundaresan, executive director of the All India Rice Exporters Association. He had very stated that “blot of poison of pesticide (residue) on exported grain could lead to the export halting overnight. In such a scenario not only will exports suffer but growers will also suffer”.
Dr Gudev Singh, who is former head of the department of entomology of PAU, said that most of the samples were taken from the Chogawan belt, as this is the principal basmati growing area of the country. These samples included those of PUSA 1121 variety and the aromatic Punjab-386, which is the traditional variety and is exported to Europe and the US.
Tricyclazole not used by Punjab farmers
When asked about the claims of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of having found traces of the fungicide tricyclazole in the basmati exported to the US in 2012, Chahal said that the tests by PAU had confirmed that no residue of this chemical was present in any of the 150 samples. Tricyclazole is among the 13 weedicides, insecticides and pesticides on the banned list of FDA.
Amritsar chief agriculture officer Paramjit Singh Sandhu said that basmati and paddy growers in Punjab do not use tricyclazole. “It is not recommended by the state agriculture department nor by PAU”, he added.
“Our farmers were being given a bad name despite the fact that they don’t use tricyclazole. Now it is for exporters to find out how the chemical residue is seeping into basmati”, the two experts said. Taraporewala.