MP’S FIGHT FOR BASMATI RIGHT
APEDA applies at GI registry, Chennai, for GI tag for basmati grown in western UP, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, J&K, Delhi and Uttarakhand moved the Chennai High Court, which asked APEDA not to take any precipitative action against basmati from MP till the dispute was settled, giving MP farmers a temporary reprieve. Now they are awaiting the outcome of the October hearings. Inclusion in basmati-growing states will mean continued prosperity for the state and its farmers. Exclusion, however, would mean a crash in value, as the premium long-grained aromatic rice grown in MP would no longer be recognised in the market as basmati.
LURE OF BASMATI
There are two reasons why farmers in MP took to basmati cultivation. For one, many farmers from North India, especially Punjab, Haryana and Western UP, sold land back home as holdings were getting fragmented and therefore less remunerative and bought much bigger holdings at lower rates in MP. They brought with them their superior agricultural techniques and crops such as basmati rice. Seeing the newcomers’ success, local farmers took to cultivating the crop. Secondly, branded rice companies introduced the crop in many areas of MP by holding demonstrations and trials and distributing seeds. The product has immense demand overseas, especially in the Gulf countries, Europe and the Americas. Branded rice companies began procuring paddy in MP and set up several plants in the state to process the rice for export. The export potential of the product ensured that in certain years basmati paddy sold for almost Rs 4,000 per quintal, giving the sort of returns farmers farmers couldn’t get from any other regular crop. Prices now are down to about Rs 2,100 per quintal but it’s still the best bet in the Kharif season if water is available.
The area under paddy cultivation in MP increased substantially from 2006-07, from 8,094 hectares to about 5 lakh hectares in 2015-16. Basmati rice accounted for nearly 10 lakh tonnes of MP’s total paddy production of 54.38 lakh tonnes in 2014-15, as per industry estimates. Two varieties of basmati, namely PB 1 and P 1121, are mainly grown in MP. The state accounts for 30-40 per cent of total PB 1 exports from India while it accounts for about 10 per cent of the total basmati exports from the country, according to industry estimates. As of now, basmati