High earnings last year drive farmers to grow more basmati

CHANDIGARH: Basmati rice is set to gain acreage in India, largest exporter of the premium rice, as the farmers earned higher remuneration in the last season. Farmers in basmati-belt states are growing more of the cereal instead of cotton and regular rice compared to the last year.

The forecast of normal monsoon in India is also enticing farmers in rice growing states of Punjab, Haryana, Western Uttar Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir to grow more basmati. A normal monsoon boost output of other crops including cotton and farmers earned less than expected in the fibre crop in the last season.

“The increase in area of basmati is on expected lines after farmers earned well in the previous year,” Vijay Sethia, president All India Rice Exporters Association told ET. He said that the area would increase by more than 10 per cent this season.

Despite the revival in basmati cropping pattern, the exporters are anxious of challenges in international trade including stagnant market, looming US sanctions on Iran and newer European residue norms. Sethia urged for stricter regularisation of pesticides in the country to meet newer residue norms in international trade. “The government needs to regularise pre-harvest chemicals to boost the stagnant basmati trade,” he said.

The area under basmati had come down by 7-10 per cent in the last year due to low international prices in 2016. In Punjab, second largest grower of basmati, the area of basmati is expected to increase by more than 20 per cent as farmers are keen to grow more basmati than the last year. Basmati was grown on around 5-lakh hectares in the last season in the state.

Lower than anticipated earning from cotton last season is also exhorting farmers to grow rice in Punjab. “The area under basmati is expected to increase as demand has been firm in the last year and farmers got higher procurement rates,” Jasbir Singh Bains, director of agriculture for Punjab said.