Punjab is looking at increasing the area under basmati in the coming paddy season, a plan stressed at the recently held Kisan Melas across the state. This is because of a surge in the demand for basmati seeds among the farmers.
“As of now we have not fixed any target, but we do expect an increase in the area under basmati,” said Dr Mangal Singh, director for agriculture. “It also depends on the availability of the seeds. Though the demand has been huge, we need to see whether we will be able to cater to that much demand; only a limited quantity of seeds can be given.”
Indeed, Punjab Agriculture University could not supply basmati seeds to all who were asking for them. In contrast, less than 25 per cent of the non-basmati stock was consumed.
Dr H S Randhawa, director (seeds) of PAU said, “Last year farmers made a huge profit from basmanti. Hence, this year everyone has been seeking to grow for this variety. The varieties highest in demand have been PUSA 1121, PUSA PB 1509 and PB basmati.”
He added, “We had around 1,000 quintals basmati seeds ready with us. The entire stock was consumed and the farmers were even asking for more. The season will start from June, and farmers are expected to purchase the seeds from us after wheat harvesting.”
The demand for seeds crossed over 20,000 quintals in fairs organised in Ludhiana, Faridkot, Bathinda, Gurdaspur and other areas.
The non-basmati varieties seeds on display were PR 121, PR 122, PR 123, PR 111 and PR 114. Around 250 quintals of PR 111 and 600 quintals of PR 114 were available but they remain with the PAU.
In the last season, the prices of normal basmati varieties increased from Rs 1,500 per quintal to Rs 3,000, while high quality basmati was sold at Rs 6,000 per quintal as against the previous session’s Rs 3,400.
Last year, the demand in the international market was high and the Punjab government had even waived the 2 per cent each market fee and rural development fund, apart from a 3 per cent Punjab infrastructure development fund on sale of basmati, which saved farmers taxes. They preferred to sell their stock in Punjab mandis rather than going to neighbouring states.
Going by the heavy demand for basmati seeds, experts say it is likely prices will come down because availability will exceed demand. Though farmers were cautioned about this, the demand remained high.
Apart from basmati varieties, the fairs saw PAU sell 13,500 vegetable kits meant for kitchen gardens. The skyrocketing prices of vegetables have been forcing people to grow vegetables at home, say PAU experts. However, looking at the demand, they too have increased the prices of seed packets from last year’s Rs 50 to Rs 80 this season.