With few days left for the start of the paddy season, to limit the area under basmati varieties remain a Herculean task for agriculture department, especially after last year's successful business as most of the farmers are motivated to sow basmati varieties instead of normal paddy varieties.
If experts are to be believed, excessive production of basmati this year may lead to steep fall in its prices and may result in glut of basmati, besides exploitation of farmers in the grain markets due to poor marketing techniques of these varieties.
Experts from Punjab Agriculture University (PAU) have already exhorted farmers, who experimented with basmati varieties last season, to add only 10% of the total area under basmati this time and not more, in order to maintain demand and supply balance.
Year 2013 remained lucrative for basmati growers as they got ` 3000-` 3500 per quintal for different basmati varieties, against ` 1,310 per quintal for non-basmati varieties. For high quality basmati varieties, farmers were paid upto ` 5500.
Nearly 19, 000 hectares of area was under basmati varieties in Patiala last year, while agriculture officials are expecting to have 24,000 hectare area under basmati.
"We have been expecting to increase only 5,000 hectares of area than last year, but the farmers are showing greater interest in sowing basmati varieties. Seeds of basmati rice including PUSA 1121 and PUSA PB 1509 are in huge demand," said chief agriculture officer,Patiala, Inderpal Singh Sandhu.
In 2013, showing concern over depleting condition of water table due to cultivation of water-guzzling varieties of paddy, the Punjab government had promoted PUSA 1121 and PUSA PB 1509 basmati varieties.
Sandhu said seeing interest of farmers, area under basmati was expected to increase manifolds after last year successful season and that may cause problems for its growers and officials in the latter stages as well.
"The agriculture department has been organising awareness campaigns to sensitise farmers to not to go with this trend and they should increase limited area under basmati every year instead of increasing in a one go," Sandhu told.
Fall in prices may hit farmers
In case of imbalance in demand and supply, a dip in the prices is one the major concerns, which may demotivate the farmers, besides denting crop diversification project of the Punjab government.
Last year, the demand in the international market was high and even private traders managed to purchase basmati yield at good prices.
However, lack of proper marketing techniques, no minimum support price and no procurement by government agencies are other factors, which may turn as bane for the farmers at the time of selling its yield.
"The exploitation of farmers in grain markets and possible dip in the prices are major cause of concerns and farmers need to know this before increasing area under paddy," he said.