Punjab basmati sees revival in export market as orders grow
ECSTATIC Traders getting bookings mainly for 1,121 and 1,718 varieties even as sowing of crop is yet to begin
CHANDIGARH: Exporters of Punjab’s premium aromatic basmati rice are ecstatic as they have started getting orders from international buyers again even as they suffered a setback in 2018 when hundreds of consignments were returned by the European Union (EU) and countries in the Middle East due to traces of fungicide in the grain.
The advance orders are mainly for the 1,121 and 1,718 varieties of the aromatic rice.
The turnaround is being attributed to the fact that the state’s basmati growers have been able to control the use of fungicides and pesticides in the crop. Besides, amid the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak, the rice distributors in the destination countries are keen on piling up stocks, it is learnt.
This time, basmati traders have started bookings even before the sowing of the crop. July 31 is the deadline to transplant basmati saplings. The exporters are targeting a sale over ₹36,000 crore after the harvest that will begin in OctoberNovember, an increase of 10-12% over the previous year.
“Of the 40 lakh tonnes India exports every year, nearly 20 lakh tonne is exported from Punjab. The state’s border belt comprising Tarn Taran, Amritsar and Gurdaspur districts is the main producers of the rice. Though Sangrur, Moga and Fazilka districts also grow the rice, the quality of rice cultivated there is not that fine,” said Ashok Sethi, director of the Basmati Exports Association.
“This year, the exports from the state are expected to touch 23-24 lakh tonnes,” he added.
“The basmati growers in Punjab are expected to make good profits this kharif season as prices of the produce are expected to touch ₹3,500 per quintal,” said state secretary (agriculture) Kahan Singh Pannu.
Harpreet Singh, a farmer from
Sarwali village in Batala, said, “If the exporters are claiming to be flush with orders, they should disclose what rate they will offer if our produce is as per the benchmark. The price of basmati per quintal has not gone beyond ₹3,000 for many years, with a minor fluctuation of ₹200-300.”
THE 2018 EU CURBS
In 2018, when the European Union (EU) slapped new import restrictions on the issue of fungicide traces, at least 100 containers were sent back by Norway,
Sweden, England and Finland, leading to huge losses to the local basmati exporters.
The hardest hit from the decision were farmers in Punjab and Haryana, who have been using the fungicide for decades to protect their produce from the ‘rice blast disease’. The EU order in June 2018 had said the level of tricyclazole must be cut from 1.0 mg per kg to 0.01 mg.
“We had assured the basmati importers that the fungicide traces will be reduced. Now, it has come down to permissible limits,” said Pannu.
“We are motivating the farmers to expand the area under basmati cultivation and use minimum fungicide,” Sethi added.
Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Syria, Kuwait, the European Union, and the North American countries are major basmati importers. Until 2018, Iran was a major importer of basmati as it would order 14 lakh tonnes of the rice every year.
But last year, India became party to the trade sanctions imposed by the US on Iran, leading to halt on the basmati exports to the country. Even as Iran has no direct trade with India, it is expected to buy basmati from Dubai-based traders who import the aromatic rice from Punjab and elsewhere in the country.
If the exporters are claiming to be flush with orders, they should disclose what rate they will offer to us. The price of basmati per quintal has not gone beyond ₹3,000 for many years.
HARPREET SINGH, farmer from Sarwali village in Batala
The state’s border belt comprising Tarn Taran, Amritsar and Gurdaspur is the main producers of the aromatic rice. HT FILE