Not withstanding the Covid-19 pandemic, Basmati rice export from India, mainly Punjab and Haryana, has seen the highest export in the past three years, in the financial year of 2019-20. The country has earned Rs 34,000 crore from this cash crop.
April and May of 2020 have recorded export worth Rs 6,488 crore because export orders of March of the 2019-20 were extended to April and May due to the nationwide lockdown announced on March 23.
Exporters have also received big orders for the coming months.
According to data provided by the Punjab Rice Millers Export Association (PRMEA), the total export of Basmati in 2017-18 was 4 million tonnes (40 lakh tonnes) worth Rs 26,870 crore while in 2018-19 the total export was 4.41 million tonnes worth Rs 32,800 crore. This year 4.45 million tonnes Basmati was exported, fetching around Rs 34,000 crore — an increase of Rs 12,00 crore were witnessed.
“During the pandemic, essential food items, especially rice export, have registered good growth. Basmati export has almost touched Rs 34,000 crore for the 2019-20 financial year against Rs 32,800 crore in 2018-19,” said Ashok Sethi, a leading exporter of Basmati rice and director of PRMEA, adding that exporters had orders for over 10 lakh tonnes to be delivered in February and March, but due to lockdown, March orders were not completed and extended to April, while Ramadan brought in extra cheer with Middle East countries ordering more supplies.
“The lockdown had a big impact on shipments as container movement was halted but exporters managed to ship several consignments to break the impasse,” said a senior member of the exporters Association.
Exporters said that 60% of the Basmati export had taken place with three countries including Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran also got Indian Basmati through the indirect way in April and May months.
“The growth would have been even better as Iran being a major importer of Basmati rice, used to import around 14 lakh tonnes rice from India annually, but due to the US sanctions, export to Iran got hit,” said an exporter, adding that though indirectly Iran imported some amount of Indian Basmati via other Middle East countries.
India’s Basmati export is around 3.75 lakh tonnes monthly but in April and May month the export 8.67 lakh tonnes (4.33 lakh tonnes monthly) export was recorded against 7.85 lakh tonnes last year in these two months which is a growth of around 10%, said an exporter.
Exporters said that the Indian government should have a dialogue with the Iran government over Basmati rice export keeping the oil issue aside as under US pressure, India stopped buying oil from Iran which impacted the Basmati rice export to Iran since last one year.
“The Punjab Basmati rice industry has been in the forefront in exports since 1981, and now this premium food item is being exported to more than 100 countries. Punjab and neighboring Haryana have accounted for around 80 per cent of the total export,” said Sethi.
As Pusa Basmati 1121, which is among the high yield varieties of Basmati, covers major areas in Punjab and Haryana,as it gives 18 to 20 quintals yield per acre.
“1121 saw phenomenal growth and markets around the world, mainly in Arab countries, and has also made the route to European, American and Canadian markets,” said exporter and president of All India Rice Export Association, Nathi Ram Gupta.
Due to the rejection of some consignments of Indian Basmati by the European Union a couple of years ago, now exporters and Punjab agriculture department officials have become quite serious about keeping harmful pesticides away from this crop, which has a great demand worldwide.
“We are happy that pesticides including Tricyclazole and Buprofezin, which are widely used by farmers on the crop, are being banned in India very soon,” said Sethi, adding that the pandemic has given the industry some break to define new strategies and push hard for controlled use of harmful pesticides which will boost Basmati export further.
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