Kashmiri red rice: Officials want organic tag with special branding
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.