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Jammu Kashmir

Posted at: Nov 9, 2018, 12:06 AM; last updated: Nov 9, 2018, 12:06 AM (IST)

Basmati farmers at mercy of brokers

No minimum support price-like system for this finest variety of rice

Grown on 50,000 hectares

  • It is estimated that about 50,000 hectares is under cultivation of different basmati varieties, including 370, Sugandha, Sanwal, Ranbir Basmati, RR-564, Pusa No.1 and Pusa Basmati 1121
  • The basmati varieties grown in the state are known for long grains, aroma and exotic flavour
  • The annual production of basmati is about 1 lakh metric tonnes in the state. As per estimates, about 30,000 metric tonnes is procured by buyers from outside the state
Basmati farmers at mercy of brokers
Farmer at a basmati field close to the International Border in the Jammu region. Tribune file Photo

Sumit Hakhoo

Tribune News Service

Jammu, November 8

Callousness shown by the successive governments in Jammu and Kashmir has left thousands of farmers cultivating finest varieties of basmati rice in the world at the mercy of the broker-miller cartel.

As harvesting is about to end, the state has again failed to bring basmati under the ambit of the minimum support price (MSP). This has left the field open for exploitation of cultivators who are forced to sell their produce at the rates set by millers.

Ironically, J&K lifted ban on the export of basmati in 2009, but no sincere effort has been made to promote it as a national and international brand.

According to officials in the agriculture department, the annual production of basmati is about 1 lakh metric tonnes. The varieties grown in the state are known for its long grains, aroma and exotic flavour. It is estimated about 30,000 metric tonnes is procured by buyers from outside the state.

“Basmati is still treated as a novelty item. It has not been brought under the Essential Commodities Act which determines the MSP for other crops, like wheat. The harvesting will end in the next two weeks in most of the areas. However, in the absence of government intervention, traders from outside the state decide price and export produce of J&K,” said Choudhary Dev Raj, president, Rice Growers Association in RS Pura, the main basmati growing area of J&K.

It is estimated that about 50,000 hectares is under cultivation of different basmati varieties, including 370, Sugandha, Sanwal, Ranbir basmati, RR-564, Pusa no.1 and Pusa basmati 1121.

About 90 per cent of the land falls near the 198-km International Border which traverses through Jammu, Samba and Kathua district.

When contacted, Director, Agriculture, HL Razdan, admitted that the basmati farmers faced problems in the absence of the MSP, but said the department was trying to streamline the system.

“It is under consideration of Central and state governments. But till such a mechanism is announced, we will keep on holding regular meetings with farmers during the harvesting season to ensure they get the maximum price from buyers,” said Razdan.

Although officials from the agriculture department said in 2017, cultivators got Rs 4,000 to Rs 4,500 per quintal for the produce, but an activist alleged that the farmers did not get more than Rs 2,500 to Rs 3,000 per quintal as brokers had upper hand in the deals.

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