With basmati sowing season is going to start from July 1, interested farmers continue to be in a dilemma for the Centre as well as the state government have failed to assure them marketing options and minimum support price so far.
The state government though has been exhorting the farmers to go for Basmati cultivation this season. As per an estimate, the state agriculture department has been expecting around 6-lakh hectares under basmati cultivation this kharif season against last season's 4.5-lakh hectares.
Agriculture economists say if the government wanted to promote basmati cultivation in the region, it should have provided farmers with best marketing options and minimum support prices, besides coming up with hybrid and refined varieties meeting the international standards.
Kesar Singh Bhangu, an agriculture economist at Punjabi University, said in absence of fixed MSP, marketing options and quality seeds, it would be very difficult for the farmers to opt for basmasti instead of traditional paddy varieties.
Basmati varieties are generally sown in July and consume less water and mature early, ultimately reducing the input costs for farmers. Traditional paddy varieties take 160-170 days to mature, besides requiring more water. Basmati proves a lucrative proposition for farmers as they get Rs. 2,300-2,400 per quintal for basmati varieties against Rs. 1,350 for non-basmati varieties.
According to information, government agencies don't procure basmati, and local traders and private agencies fix rates on their own. “For the success of any crop diversification project, a concrete assurance to farmers is required. Since most of the basmati from Punjab and Haryana is exported to foreign countries, the government should take note of fluctuation in prices at international markets,” Bhangu said.
The state government has already submitted a Rs. 7,500-crore action plan for crop diversification to the union agriculture ministry for approval.
Consortium of Indian Farmers' Association president Satnam Singh Bheru said all farmer unions had been pressing Centre's Agricultural Prices and cost Commission to fix Rs. 2,400 per quintal as MSP and assurance that government agencies would procure basmati.
“It seemed that Central authorities were reluctant to declare Basmati MSP as they felt that farmers across Punjab and Haryana would start growing basmati varieties ignoring traditional varieties, which could pose a serious threat to food security of the country,” he said.