Low inventory and a fall in taxes on account of GST, coupled with rising exports, have helped basmati farmers in Punjab and Haryana to command a better price for their produce this season.

“Even though the area under basmati rice was nearly 10 per cent less as compared to the last kharif season, the yield was better as more farmers decided to sow high-yielding varieties such as 1509 this time around,” said All India Rice Exporters Association President Vijay Setia.

Basmati acreage down “As a result, arrivals in the mandis are good. Farmers are getting a good price this time around. This was because there were low carry-forward stocks and also because buyers were more aggressive as there was a misplaced perception the yield would be less as the total acreage under basmati rice cultivation was relatively low,” he said.

According to a survey by the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (Apeda), basmati rice area in Haryana has come down 9.39 per cent to 6,52,000 hectares in the 2017 kharif season from 7,19,600 hectares in 2016.

Similarly, there was an 8.84 per cent reduction in the basmati area in Punjab, with the area coming down to 5,61,200 hectares.

The total basmati growing areas in seven States of north India came down by 7.92 per cent to 1.56 million hectares (mh) in the 2017 kharif season as compared to 1.69 mh, according to a recent report by Apeda.

Among the different basmati varieties, PB 1121 continued to be the most preferred one even though its area came down by 10.5 per cent to 1.1 mh. Pusa 1509, on the other hand, went up by 8.07 per cent to 1.29 lakh hectares.

According to Harpreet Singh Sidhu, General Manager Enforcement at the Punjab Mandi Board, total arrivals of basmati in mandis in the State stood at 1.86 lakh tonnes so far.

The total quantity of basmati rice traded in Haryana’s mandis till Monday was 86,741 tonnes, said a Haryana government official. Farmers, too, said they were happy with this year’s kharif yield.

“I have received 24 quintals of basmati rice from my one-acre plot,” said Rajinder Singh, a farmer in Rania, a small Haryana town 23 km away from Sirsa city. Singh chose to grow the short-duration, high-yielding 1509 variety, which accounts for most of the mandi arrivals.

High-yield varieties Farmers who have opted for other varieties such as PB-1 and PB-1401 also seem to be content with the yield.

“The harvest is planned after Diwali. The crop looks good and I expect the yield to be good,” said Surdeep Singh of Ellenabad, a small town in Sirsa district that lies close to Haryana’s border with Rajasthan.

Most basmati varieties are commanding a good price, both traders as well as farmers agree. Surdeep Singh said he expects to get up to ₹2,800/quintal for his produce.

Crop burning Punjab Mandi Board’s Sidhu, however, said the prices in Punjab are in the range of ₹3,000-3,300, which “is very good”.

However, rice farmers in both the States are worried about issues around burning crop residue.

“We expect more and more farmers in Sirsa to go for the 1509 variety during the next season as it would give them some extra time to prepare the field for the rabi crop as the 1509 variety takes only around 100 days as compared to 120 days required by most other popular varieties,” said Rajinder Singh of Rania.

Currently, less than 15 per cent of the acreage in the district is under 1509, he said.

Sukhwinder Singh Sekhon of Punjab Kisan Sabha, however, said the farmers should be adequately compensated if they do not burn crop residue.

“Farmers get less than 10 days to prepare the field for the rabi crop, any means other than crop burning would not be economical for farmers,” he said.

Moreover, studies have shown that the share of crop residue burning to air pollution was only 1.5 per cent, Sekhon argued.

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