Ruchika M Khanna
Chandigarh, May 29
The high-pesticide residue in basmati, cultivated in Punjab, threatens its export potential. With the AAP government aiming at reducing the area under the water-guzzling paddy, the focus has also shifted to reduce the use of pesticide on the basmati crop.
The government is mulling banning the use of nine pesticides on basmati this year. A centre for testing the pesticide content in basmati is also to come up in Amritsar, with the help of the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority.
In 2019, when these pesticides were banned, the export of basmati from Punjab had seen a surge. In the wake of failure to ban these pesticides last year, basmati exports had taken a beating, claim exporters. They say in 2019, basmati exports from India were 4.71 million metric tonne, with Punjab accounting for 40 per cent of these exports. In 2021, the all-India exports had fallen to 4.02 million metric tonne. In 2020, the government again banned the use of pesticides. Since the ban came late, it led to a fall in exports to 4.33 million metric tonne.
Vikram Marwaha, a basmati exporter from Tarn Taran, said since the state was focusing on increasing the area under basmati, they were expecting higher returns for farmers as the global demand has been on the upswing. “The appreciation of dollar will help in better realisation and we see farmers getting at least 10 per cent higher value,” he said. Last year, the highest price that the basmati growers got for their produce was Rs 4,200 per quintal.
Last year, the area under basmati had fallen. The department is planning to increase the area under basmati from 4.85 lakh hectare to 5.50 lakh hectare, says Agriculture Director Gurwinder Singh. “There is a scope to increase the area under basmati to 7.50 lakh hectare. Slowly, we will be moving towards this. Though the yield of basmati is lower than non-basmati paddy, the returns are higher. If the farmer gets up to Rs 3,700-4,000 per quintal, he is on a par with the farmer growing non-basmati paddy. The department will be spreading awareness against the use of pesticides banned by importers, so that farmers get best price,” he said.
Timely decision to help export more
If the state issues the notification on time, we’ll be able to increase exports to West Asia by almost 10-15% than last year. Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iran and Iraq are the biggest markets following the European standards for testing the residue level of pesticides. Arvinder Singh, exporter
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