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Punjab Govt May Announce MSP for Basmati Crop to Encourage Diversification

State farmers in Punjab can anticipate the minimum support price (MSP) for the important alternative crop to the water-intensive paddy (non-basmati) rice at the first Sarkar-Kisan Milni, which is being held on Sunday in Ludhiana.

Shivam Dwivedi
Government will establish a basmati extension & research centre on a 20-acre plot of land by signing an MOU with APEDA
Government will establish a basmati extension & research centre on a 20-acre plot of land by signing an MOU with APEDA

The government may also reveal additional measures to increase exports and stop planting longer-duration paddy varieties, which have a severe negative impact on water resources. The first "milni" of the Punjab government will focus on diversification, for which the MSP of the alternative crops is a requirement, according to sources in the Punjab agriculture department.

According to a senior officer in the agriculture division of Punjab, the government has decided to set the MSP for basmati at Rs 2,625 per quintal. Only if the market price for the basmati crop declines from this MSP will the government purchase it. Farmers are selling early basmati varieties like PUSA 1509 for Rs 3,000 per quintal and other main basmati varieties like PUSA 1121, 1718, etc. for Rs 3,600 to Rs 4,700 per quintal at a high rate that has been in place for the past two years.

The majority of Punjab's basmati is exported, and the basmati crop is dependent on private players like traders and exporters. Its prices change based on the demand on the global market. A few years ago, farmers suffered significant losses as a result of the rate's decrease to Rs 1,600 to Rs 2,200 per quintal. According to a senior agriculture officer, "the government has now decided that the state government will procure it at the said MSP through MARKFED if the price of basmati in the open market decreases from the decided MSP.

In addition, the government will establish a basmati extension and research centre on a 20-acre plot of land by signing an MOU with the Agriculture Produce Export Development Authority (APEDA), an organisation run by the government of India, in order to increase the price of basmati. Additionally, a lab for testing pesticide residue has already been established in Amritsar to aid farmers in promoting export.

It will be done to brand Punjabi basmati to encourage export, according to sources, who also noted that basmati from Punjab is renowned for its flavour, length, and taste due to the province's excellent weather, soil, and irrigation (through river and canal water) and has the Geographical Indication (GI) label. In Punjab, crop diversification is a major problem. In Punjab, the Kharif season sees the planting of nearly 31 lakh hectares of rice, of which about 26 lakh hectares are planted in paddy. Over the past few years, the basmati crop's cultivation area has stayed between 4 lakh and 5 lakh hectares.

Early and late varieties of basmati are planted in June and July, and they are harvested in September and October. Exporters of rice claim there is a sizable market for basmati and that the state has the ability to grow it over a sizable area. Experts predict that at least 10 lakh hectares of basmati could easily be planted in the state, reducing the area used for paddy.

A farmer named Satnam Singh said, "If the government announces MSP for basmati, which gives about 10 quintals less than paddy per acre, the farmers may opt for basmati if they get a good MSP for it." He added that basmati also saves a tremendous amount of water and that its current market rate earning is significantly higher than paddy crop.

Basmati is still in high demand, according to commission agent Vinod Gupta of Fazilka Mandi. The MSP will serve as a deterrent to a number of traders who enjoy a monopoly on their industry and provide less to farmers in order to make sizable profits. A farmer can sell paddy for between Rs 57,680 and Rs 74,160 per acre, according to the current MSP for the crop, and basmati can be sold for between Rs 64,000 and Rs 1 lakh per acre, despite having a lower yield than paddy, at the current market rate. Basmati is sown a month later than paddy during the monsoon and is largely dependent on rainwater, according to experts, so it requires less water than paddy. Farmers use the stubble from basmati cultivation as animal feed, which can help reduce stubble burning. Almost no pesticides are required. During the growing season for basmati, the state government prohibits the sale of about 10 pesticides, proving that those chemicals are not necessary.

Additionally, the government may declare that long-duration PUSA 44 varieties of paddy are to be banned and short-duration varieties to be promoted. The government would ensure the timely release of water in the canals during the cotton-sowing period in April and May and provide subsidised seeds as well in order to increase the area under cotton, which is another important alternative to paddy.

In terms of horticultural crops, the Punjab government may provide coverage for some vegetables under "The Bhavantar Scheme," which means that if the price of the vegetable decreases from a set price, the government will cover the remaining difference.

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