The Punjab agriculture department is planning to increase the area under basmati crop by over 20 per cent in the current sowing season, with the state government pushing for alternative crops to wean away growers from water-guzzling paddy. As sowing of the aromatic crop is set to commence this month, the agriculture department has targeted to bring six lakh hectares under the aromatic crop, up from 4.94 lakh hectares last year, an agriculture department senior official said.
The state government also has plans to fix a support price of Rs 2,600 to Rs 2,800 a quintal for basmati crop.
To promote the basmati rice crop, the department has roped in ‘Kisan Mitra’, who will provide technical guidance to growers for sowing it.
‘We have targeted to bring six lakh hectares of area under basmati this season,’ said the official.
The area under the basmati crop was 4.85 lakh hectares in 2021-22 and 4.06 lakh hectares in 2020-21.
Punjab grows paddy over an area of about 30 lakh hectares, including basmati, every year.
Basmati is mainly grown in Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Tarn Taran, Pathankot and other districts. The officials anticipate that farmers in Fazilka and Muktsar districts will also bring more area under basmati paddy this time.
The Punjab government is promoting crops like basmati, cotton and pulses as an alternative to water-consuming paddy crops.
The official said as farmers fetched more than Rs 3,500 a quintal from basmati paddy last year, and more growers will be encouraged to switch to basmati paddy this time.
Kisan Mitra, trained by the agriculture department, has been roped in to guide and provide technical guidance to farmers for basmati crops.
‘A Kisan Mitra will guide farmers about basmati, starting from sowing till harvesting,’ said the officer.
Farmers will also be advised about the use of only those pesticides which are recommended by the Ludhiana-based Punjab Agricultural University for basmati crops.
Growers will be asked to avoid certain pesticides, as there is a risk of higher pesticide residues than the maximum residual limit in basmati grain meant for export, said the official.
Basmati exports from India are estimated to be over Rs 35,000 crore, with Punjab’s aromatic grain having a significant share.
On the state government’s plans to fix a support price for basmati, the official sources in the department said if the rate of basmati drops from the support price level fixed by the government in the market, then the Punjab government will intervene through Markfed (Punjab State Co-op Supply and Marketing Federation) and procure the crop.
The decision of fixing the support price is yet to be taken, but it could be between Rs 2,600 to Rs 2,800 a quintal, they added.
Punjab farmers mainly grow PUSA 1121, PUSA 1509 and 386 varieties.
This season, paddy transplantation was divided into four phases, with the first phase starting from June 10 in areas near the international border. The other three phases started on June 16, 19 and 21 for paddy sowing in other parts of the state.
This article has been republished from The Economic Times