Fazilka, June 11
Low prices of basmati rice have hit the economy in this border belt. The price of basmati was Rs 9,000-Rs 10,000 per quintal in the last few years, but it has now come down to Rs 3,900-Rs 4,000.
The farmers and rice millers have demanded immediate announcement of a policy on basmati.
The economy of this border belt is largely dependent on farming and basmati is the main crop of the district which is sown in about 75,000 hectares of land.
Notably, state Minister of Food and Civil Supplies Adaish Partap Kairon had announced to come up with a basmati policy a few days ago, but nothing has been done so far.
“The policy should be announced after consultation with farmers and rice millers and before the commencement of the sowing season, which is likely to begin from June 15,” said Ranjam Kamra, spokesman, Punjab Basmati Rice Millers Association.
“The government wants the farmers to sow basmati paddy which consumes less water and as part of the diversification process, but it does not bother about its marketing,” said Raghav, a farmer.
The millers alleged that Iran, which was a bulk buyer of the basmati rice, had adopted a cartel system to keep the prices down and exploit Indian traders. “Earlier, Iran refused to purchase the rice but later on, started purchasing about one lakh tonne of basmati rice every month,” said Kamra.
He said basmati is consumed in a large quantity in the gulf countries, particularly in Iran, and they are left with no other alternative but to purchase basmati from India and Pakistan as they are the main producers of the variety.
The farmers and rice millers have demanded that to put a pressure on the Gulf countries, the Union Government should announce Minimum Export Price (MEP) for basmati rice.
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