The Punjab government incentive of slashing local levies has failed to attract basmati buyers from the other states. The decision was meant to save the crop producers from a glut situation.
There has been a overproduction of basmati rice in proportion to increased acreage, but the traders from Haryana are reluctant to buy from Punjab, since they find the quality of the 1509, PUSA 1121, and Moochal varieties especially not up to the mark; and argue that the exemptions still don't compensate them enough for the cost of carriage.
"In Punjab, most of the harvesting was done by combines,which is not viable in case of long-grain varieties. In
Haryana, paddy was harvested by hand, which is why the product was superior," said Naresh Sharma of Kurukshetra's Shree Ram Trading Company. Karnal rice exporter Suresh Kumar Parjapati is also unhappy with the Punjab government proposal. "We have far better basmati in Haryana. Besides, lowering the market fee and rural development fund by a mere 1% each alone won't help, since the transportation cost and other charges will be more than the relief," he said.
The local traders have termed the government initiative an "eyewash", meant to avoid farmers' agitation. "Whatever the government is doing is just to show people it cares for farmers; but how we get traders from Haryana to buy at `25 per quintal, whereas the transportation cost alone is about rs70 per quintal. Besides, you pay market fee and commission to the agents," said Sangrur rice trader Ashwani Kumar Bansal.
Also, the remunerative price of Basmati is higher in Haryana. The 1509 variety fetches farmer about `2.900 per quintal in the neighbouring state against a maximum of rs2,600 per quintal in Punjab. Even farmers from the border areas are selling their produce in the nearest Haryana markets.
"We get lower price in Punjab but a small farmer like me cannot afford to ship produce to Haryana," said Jashveer Singh of Handaya (Barnala) village, who awaits buyers for his basmati. The central and state governments have provided the farmers with no marketing system, which has compelled them to sell stock to private traders for lower price.
"Last year, we earned up to rs 80,000 per acre but this year we got only rs52,000, in spite of more production cost in the absence of timely rainfall. We don't know who fixes the price of our crop," said farmer Gurpreet Singh.
The harvesting of basmati is on, and 15,257 tonnes of paddy, including 36 tonnes of parmal rice, has been procured in Sangrur district alone.