Randhir Singh, a paddy grower from Bajida village in Karnal is in despair. Despite a bumper crop of high-yielding Pusa 1121 variety, there were no buyers for his produce at new grain market, Karnal, on Friday.
Singh, who had taken 15 acres of land on lease at Bajida, told Hindustan Times that his plans of getting handsome returns have been dashed. He blamed trade "cartels" for not ensuring remunerative prices for the crop.
Owing to the last year's high prices of paddy, land contract money was increased by Rs 10,000 to Rs 50,000 per acre, the farmer added.
"In the last season, I had sold my Pusa 1121 produce at Rs 4,200 per quintal, whereas today I am being offered a lowly Rs 2,200 per quintal. As arhtiya (commission agent) is adamant not to increase price on grounds of quality, I will try to sell my crop at Taraori town, which may get me additional price of `200 per quintal," he said.
Haryana is the country major contributor for the exported rice and the government does not fix minimum support price (MSP) for basmati. Sources in the rice industry said in 2013-14, local farmers were paid up to Rs 6,000 per quintal for traditional basmati and the prices crashed to Rs 3,000-Rs 3,400.
Similarly, the PUSA 1121 prices were tagged at up to Rs 4,500 and this year farmers are being given Rs 2,500 per quintal.
A marginal farmer, Ram Karan from Daha Jagir village in the district said while the cost of production had increased since the last season, the political functionaries and arhtiyas have colluded to snatch benefit from farmers.
"Encouraged by impressive paddy prices last year, several farmers opted for basmati and high yielding varieties of 1121 and 1509. In a situation of glut, only arhtiyas and exporters are set to reap profit. While we are being paid low prices for paddy, even low grade basmati rice is sold at more than `100 per kg in the market," he said.
Exporters deny foul play
However, exporters deny any foul play as the basmati prices are determined by the international demand. They claim that the political blame game was causing confusion among the farming community.
Former chairman of All India Rice Exporters Association (AIREA) Vijay Setia while it was true that export was determined by the demand and supply formula, the governments should ensure that farmers are getting their due.
The state governments should plan tax uniformity to ensure a level playing field for the rice industry, he said.
"While a section of politicians is spreading unfounded information of export ban of basmati, others are blaming 4% mandi tax, which is there for more than 15 years in Haryana, behind the poor pricing of basmati. There is a need to look into the problems of the rice industry from right perspective to find a solution," said Setia.
A prominent rice exporter from Kaithal district denied that the exporters were to be blamed for exploitation of basmati growers.
"Last year, basmati prices were exceptionally high, which made rice exporters to suffer heavy losses. After buying paddy at high prices, international market crashed significantly. This year, there is an apprehension that Iran, the single largest buyer of Indian basmati may raise import duty and the Indian rice exporters are not in position to face more losses," said the exporter.
President of Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) Gurnam Singh Chaduni said timely intervention by the state government could have saved farmers.
"State-managed commercial entities like Hafed should have been asked to buy basmati as it had a good market. But now it is too late for any monetary help as most of the crop in the paddy growing districts of Karnal, Kurukshetra, Kaithal and Yamunanagar is purchased by the private players. But the situation has hit the farmers severely," he said.