The farmers of Punjab, who are still reeling under the loss suffered during the wheat season, have been advised by the state government to “play it safe” in the upcoming paddy season — that is, they should not put all their eggs into one basket.
According to the advisory passed on to district agriculture cells by the state agriculture department, the farmers have been advised not to concentrate just on basmati, but also sow normal paddy varieties that have been recommended by agricultural universities and the department. Even in the case of basmati, the growers have been asked not to sow just one variety but to sow different varieties, depending on the amount of land they own.
Confirming the advisory, Amritsar chief agriculture officer (CAO) Balwinder Singh Chhina told Hindustan Times here on Monday: “The purpose behind the advisory is to cut down on the area under basmati so that farmers do not have to face problems when they sell their crop. If the acreage under basmati further increases this year, the rate is bound to fall, as had happened last year, as it does not have a fixed Minimum Support Price (MSP) and fluctuates according to the production.”
Chhina said the farmers were being asked to treat paddy on par with basmati. “A fall in the acreage of basmati will mean less production and this will keep the rate stable in the market and there will be a demand for it, hence the farmers will not face problems in selling the crop,” he added.
“Dividing the area between basmati and paddy will help the farmers. While for paddy the farmer will get an assured rate (MSP), for basmati too the farmer can bargain for a good rate with private traders,: the CAO explained. He agreed that increasing the area under paddy would put extra burden on the groundwater table as basmati required less water than any of the recommended paddy varieties.
The area under basmati cultivation began to increase after the introduction of Pusa-1121 (a basmati variety) about six years back, while the introduction of Pusa-1509 last year led to further increase in the area under the crop. These two varieties gave healthy yields of around 20 quintals per acre as compared to the traditional, aromatic varieties like Punjab 386, which give a yield of around 10-12 quintals per acre and its sowing is limited to certain pockets in the border areas of Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Tarn Taran districts.
“The increase in area initially did a favour to the farmers and in 2013 they even got rates as high as `4,500 per quintal. However, last year with the arrival of 1509 and large scale production in Punjab, the rate slumped to Rs 2,000 per quintal and even lower. But, this rate too profited the farmers as it was more that the MSP of `1,450 per quintal fixed for paddy varieties,” Chhina stated.
Therefore, to safeguard the farmers from the private traders, the government has advised them to sow both paddy and basmati. The government fears that many of the private traders, who are still holding onto their last year’s stocks of basmati, may not go in for the purchase of the crop this year and even if they decide to buy fresh stocks, they may not give the desired rate to the farmer.
In such a scenario, paddy with a fixed MSP will play the role of a saviour, helping curtail the farmers’ loss and even giving them profits.
Moreover, paddy with a yield of 30 quintals per acre can compensate for any losses that a farmer suffers on account of basmati whose yield does not cross 20-22 quintals per acre.
Divide area between basmati varieties
The second part of the advisory is asking the farmers not to concentrate on sowing just one basmati variety — Pusa-1121 or Pusa-1509 — and have been advised to sow both the varieties.
This advisory was given after a majority of the private traders threatened not to purchase the 1509 variety this year, because of the high breakage content of this variety after shelling.
There was a fear that some farmers may only sow 1509 as it is a short duration variety and this enables them to get another crop before the wheat sowing season starts. So, basically to safeguard such farmers from total losses, the government offered the advice.