Kash­miri red rice: Of­fi­cials want or­ganic tag with spe­cial brand­ing

Hindustan Times (Jalandhar) - - REGION - Mir Eh­san let­ter­schd@hin­dus­tan­times.com

Our aim is to in­crease pro­duc­tion and mo­ti­vate more and more farm­ers to go for it. IMTIYAZ AH­MAD LONE , KVK pro­gramme co­or­di­na­tor

SRI­NA­GAR: J&K of­fi­cials are seek­ing to get or­ganic tag and spe­cial brand­ing for red rice – (Zag), the rice grown close to Line of Con­trol (LOC) in north Kash­mir’s Tangh­dar sec­tor.

This is one of the few places in J&K where the spe­cial qual­ity rice is cul­ti­vated with­out the use of pes­ti­cides.

In J&K, more than nine va­ri­eties of rice are grown and al­most all the va­ri­eties are bet­ter in qual­ity and taste due to min­i­mal use of pes­ti­cides. How­ever, for the cul­ti­va­tion of Zag, which is con­sid­ered one of the best va­ri­eties grown in the Val­ley, no pes­ti­cide or fungi­cide is used. The other va­ri­eties grown in Kash­mir are Jhelum, Ka­mad, K332, Shal­i­mar Rice 1, Shal­i­mar Rice 2, Shal­i­mar Rice 3 and Mushk Budji.

Kr­ishi Vi­gyan Kendra (KVK) pro­gramme co­or­di­na­tor Imtiyaz Ah­mad Lone said more than 500 farm­ers are grow­ing the spe­cial va­ri­ety of rice in Kup­wara dis­trict.

“Our aim is to in­crease pro­duc­tion and mo­ti­vate more and more farm­ers to go for it,’’ he said.

Lone, who is also a sci­en­tist, said, Zag or Lal Bata in lo­cal par­lance is an or­ganic rice.

“The aroma and taste of Zag is bet­ter than high­est qual­ity of Bas­mati. We have started ef­forts to get or­ganic sta­tus and brand­ing for the Zag so that it could fetch good money to grow­ers and get more and more peo­ple in­clined to­wards its cul­ti­va­tion.’’

He said as the grow­ers don’t use any sort of pes­ti­cides in the cul­ti­va­tion we are try­ing to adopt meth­ods that the rice will not catch dis­eases such as rice blast.

“We gave seeds to farm­ers in Kup­wara and re­sults are very en­cour­ag­ing.’’

Lone said at present a quin­tal of Zag rice fetches ₹5,000 to 6,000 to the farm­ers and if there will be proper brand­ing and or­ganic tag it will fetch more than 20,000 per quin­tal.

“We have al­ready taken up the is­sue with Kash­mir Agro In­dus­tries for pack­ag­ing and brand­ing of this spe­cial va­ri­ety of rice.’’

KVK sub­ject mat­ter spe­cial­ist Fir­dous Ah­mad Raina said the Zag rice grows in cer­tain pock­ets of Kup­wara as it needs a cold and tem­per­ate cli­mate.

“We are try­ing that Zag should be­come a cash crop for farm­ers, es­pe­cially in the re­gion where grow­ers re­quire help.’’

He said the tech­niques and seeds helped the grow­ers to in­crease their pro­duc­tion by over 30%.

Ju­naid Ah­mad who is a grower from Tang­har said that there is de­mand for this va­ri­ety but it needs spe­cial at­ten­tion from gov­ern­ment.

“Due to of­fi­cial ap­a­thy, many grow­ers don’t know how to in­crease the pro­duc­tion and go for other va­ri­eties. I am grow­ing Zag va­ri­ety on five kanals of land. The rice is used for spe­cial oc­ca­sions and also we give it as gift to our rel­a­tives or of­fi­cers who visit our area,’’ he said.

An­other grower, Mush­taq Ah­mad said that gov­ern­ment should try to pro­cure en­tire zag and then pack and sell it through their Agro cen­tres.

The Zag is bet­ter than other va­ri­ety and if ef­forts are made by gov­ern­ment and farm­ers, then it could fetch a good rev­enue for the peo­ple liv­ing in the re­mote area, he said.

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