Basmati price improves, but only after many have sold produce

  • Raghbir Singh Brar, Hindustan Times, Faridkot
  • Updated: Nov 26, 2015 22:20 IST
Most farmers sold off their produce as soon as they harvested it because of the storage problem and their need for money. (HT Photo)

Thanks to Iran and other countries opening up imports from India recently, basmati prices have gone up, but only after nearly 40% farmers have sold the produce at throwaway prices which most of the time hovered around Rs 1,700 against last year’s Rs 2,700 to 3,000 per quintal.

Most farmers sold off their produce as soon as they harvested it because of the storage problem and their need for money. Till Diwali, the prices of basmati were much low as compared to those of the last year. The prices shot up to Rs 2,800 per quintal on Monday for a day before settling at Rs 2,400 to 2,500 per quintal.

According to data available with Punjab Mandi Board, about 71,000 metric tonne (MT) of basmati was sold in Muktsar and 80,000 MT in Faridkot by Wednesday against last year’s total arrival of 3.5 lakh MT in Muktsar and 2 lakh MT in Faridkot.

District Mandi Board officer Kulbir Singh Matta said, “In Muktsar, about 30% produce has arrived so far while in Faridkot, it is around 40%. We expect more arrival as the prices have improved. The produce sold at Rs 2,400 to 2,500 per quintal in Muktsar and Faridkot on Thursday.”

Surjeet Singh Baba, president, Jat Mahasabha, Faridkot, said, “The government has failed to act in time. Most farmers have already sold the produce except the big ones who can afford to store it for some time. The poor farming community has been allowed to be exploited. Instead of focusing on saving farmers, the government is focusing on Sadbhawna rallies.”

Ashish Kathuria, general secretary of Punjab Basmati Manufacturers Association, Muktsar, said, “Now Iran has opened imports and we can also sell basmati to some other countries. The demand in the international market is high whereas the production has fallen by almost 50% in Punjab as the area under it was reduced. But the business of exporting basmati is in the hands of big businessmen who control the prices. If more farmers bring the produce to the market, the prices may not go up, but if farmers hoard the produce till January, they may go up to Rs 3,500 to 4,000 per quintal. The state and the Centre must intervene to save farmers and small basmati millers.”

‘Dependence on US for oil behind low prices’

Agriculture economist and Punjab Farmers Commission consultant PS Rangi cited India’s shift to the United States for purchasing oil as the reason for Iran and other west Asian countries dragging their feet on importing basmati from India.

“Only three days ago, Iran and other countries re-opened imports from India. He said the prices were Rs 4,900 per quintal three years ago, which fell to Rs 3,900 two years ago, to Rs 2,900 last year, and touched their lowest ebb this year at Rs 1,200.

Basmati arrivals had also reduced by half -- from 39 lakh tonne last year to 18 lakh tonne this year -- as the area under the crop was reduced, he said, adding that rice millers had even issued advertisements saying they would not lift the 1509 variety of basmati that discouraged farmers to sow basmati.

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