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

Hindustan Times (Jalandhar) - - HTPUNJAB - Gur­preet Singh Nib­ber gur­preet.nib­ber@hin­dus­tan­times.com

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

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