Despite the suggestions by Punjab Agricultural University and the advisory by the Punjab government to sow recommended paddy or non-basmati varieties brought out by the university, the farmers of the border belt continue to prefer HKR-47 and HKR-127 non-basmati varieties of Haryana.
Even the threats by traders not to purchase the Haryana varieties this season have not deterred the farmers from sowing the varieties. The reasons are obvious as these are high yielding and in the last season these had got a good yield. Another reason is that the HKR variety seeds are available in abundance as compared to the PR non-basmati varieties recommended by the PAU.
"The HKR varieties are high yielding, consume less water and are resistant to pest attacks and hence are beneficial to farmers. In the last season, we got a yield of around 35 quintals per acre which was far better than the PR varieties," said Rattan Singh Randhawa, president, Border Area Sangarsh Committee.
Talking to HT on Tuesday, Randhawa claimed that the government, too, had issued a warning that these 'banned' varieties might not be purchased at the Minimum Support Price (MSP) this season as the breakage percentage of the rice grain was high in these varieties. He alleged that the government had issued the warning as it was hand-in-glove with traders.
Satnam Singh, Punjab president of the Jamoorhi Kisan Sabha, said, "We will ensure that the government purchases every grain of the HKR varieties at the MSP announced by it. It is sheer blackmail of farmers by the trading community."
Satnam in fact has gone around in the Ajnala belt asking the farmers to sow only those varieties that give the maximum yield. He has assured the farmers that if need be, an agitation would be launched in case the government did not buy the HKR varieties from the farmers.
Randhawa claimed that the idea behind this was to force the farmers to bring maximum area under the 1121 basmati variety as with the ban on HKR varieties, the farmers would be left with no option but to take to cultivation of 1121 variety as enough seed of PR varieties was not available in the market.
"Traders are selling 1121 at a rate ranging from Rs 2,600-Rs 3,000 per quintal after having bought the basmati variety at Rs 1,500 per quintal from the farmers during the harvesting season last year. The traders will adopt the same strategy this year of purchasing 1121 at the market rate, which will be around Rs 1,500 or even less, and then store it and sell it after some months at double the rates," said Randhawa.
Transplanters get popular
To decrease the dependency on manual labour, the district agriculture department is popularising the use of the Japanese-made paddy transplanters.