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High earnings, coupled with bumper exports last year, will drive Punjab farmers to grow more basmati. The area is set to gain acreage and would touch 7 lakh hectares in the current sowing season compared to 5.47 lakh hectares last year.

In neighbouring Haryana, the area under cultivation would decrease with the state government announcing sops for farmers so that they can shift from water-guzzling paddy to other crops.

“Basmati is set to gain acreage in Punjab as the farmers earned higher remuneration in the last season backed with high demand in the exports market. Based on seeds sales, we are anticipating that this year, the area will touch 7 lakh hectares,” Punjab Agriculture Secretary KS Pannu said. Last year, the area under basmati was 5.47 lakh hectares and production was 19.64 lakh tonnes in Punjab.

According to exporters, basmati rates surged 25-30 per cent last year, depending on the variety in various mandis. While PUSA-1509 was being sold at Rs 2,900-3,200 per quintal, PUSA-1121 was commanding Rs 3,600-3,700. The rate of another popular variety, PB-1, hovered between Rs 3,400 and Rs 3,500 per quintal.

Further, an aggressive buying by Iran pushed basmati exports to a record high in 2018-19, benefitting farmers. The basmati exports in 2018-19 touched 44.15 lakh tonnes as compared to 40.57 lakh tonnes in 2017-18.

Anticipating a significant increase in area and betting big on basmati exports, the Punjab Agriculture Department will assist farmers to produce pesticide-free yield. In 2017-18, basmati exporters faced a major problem with regard to higher maximum residue level of pesticides in grains exported to the US, Europe and Saudi Arabia.

Moreover, Haryana has the largest area under basmati in the country and together with Punjab, it accounts for more than 75-80 per cent of basmati exports from the country.

According to Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority data, the area under basmati cultivation was 6.34 lakh hectares and production was 21.38 lakh tonnes in 2018 in Haryana.

Officials are expecting 5-10 per cent decrease in area in Haryana. “We are anticipating that there would be a slight decrease in the basmati area as farmers may shift from paddy to other crops such as maize because of the incentives announced by the state government,” said Jagraj Dandi, Joint Director (Stat), Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Haryana.

Recently, the Haryana Government doled out benefits, including cash incentives, for the farmers shifting from water-guzzling paddy to other crops. The farmers opting for the scheme would get benefits such as payment of premium of Rs 766 per acre under PM’s Fasal Bima Yojana, quality seeds and assured purchase of alternative crops at the MSP

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By udaen

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