Bumper basmati, Hafed missing out on action

  • Navneet Sharma, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Nov 25, 2014 00:13 IST

Basmati smells good this season, thanks to a bumper crop. The foodies aren't the only ones wanting the aromatic rice on their platter. The leading brands also are fighting hard to improve their market share. The state-owned Haryana State Co-operative Supply and Marketing Federation Limited (Hafed), which has popular brands of basmati and other rice varieties, however, is missing out on all the action.

Its basmati rice is missing from the shelves, and the consumer platters, for the past eight to 10 months, hurting the brand. Hafed, which has a significant presence in the rice market, is out of basmati stock and turning away dealers and customers. At Agro Tech, a biennial agro-technology and business fair, too, the visitors to its stall, who want to know about the availability of "traditional" basmati, have to confront speechless officials.

The co-operative federation that markets products such as rice, desi wheat, wheat flour, sugar, oils, turmeric powder etc., has sold between 500 and 600 metric tonnes (MT) a year of superior basmati, roughly 15% of its total rice sales, in the past. There are issues in the availability of some other varieties of rice also. The present situation, say sources, is the fallout of faulty planning and market assessment.

Hafed officials accept that the failure to maintain the supply chain has hurt the consumer sentiment and the brand, but blame price fluctuations for the non-availability of the stock. The last major purchase of traditional basmati was three to four years ago, additional general manager (rice) Karnail Singh Lathar has said.

"While the old stock continued till six months ago, we could not make purchases in 2013 because the basmati prices were high abnormally. We made some other varieties available, but faced constraints in getting traditional basmati because of high rates. Then, a new processing mill was coming up at Taraori and no processing was feasible," he told HT, describing the circumstances as "unavoidable".

The farmer got Rs 6,000 per quintal for traditional basmati last year. Hafed now has floated short-term tenders for buying 7,500 MT of different varieties, including 1,700 MT of superior basmati old stock.

"The tender will open in the first week of December. The subsequent processes will take some time, so the traditional basmati may not be available on the counters before three to four months," said additional general manager (commercial marketing) KK Jain. In the past, Hafed has been exporting basmati and mustard oil to Australia, the UK, Saudi Arabia, and the US.

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