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In India’s main basmati-producing belt of Haryana, rain spells doom

Rajbeer Singh, a farmer from Staundi village, is yet to harvest his Pusa-1509 basmati crop. “I cannot harvest till the water drains out from my field, which is currently inundated. If during this period, the grains turn black due to fungal infestation or germinate, it will be a huge loss,” he pointed out.

On Friday, the entire basmati belt from Sonepat and Panipat to Karnal, Kurukshetra and Ambala received heavy showers. Worse, there is forecast for more in the next two days.

Heavy rains has caused damage to the standing paddy in many parts of India’s main basmati-growing belt of Haryana – and also led to demands by farmers to sell their crop directly to rice mills bypassing the state-owned APMC (agricultural produce market committee) mandis.

Raghbir Singh, a farmer from Dadupur Roran village of Karnal district and tehsil, had only three days back harvested two out of his five-acres land planted under the early-maturing Pusa-1509 basmati paddy. He was quite buoyant, as this paddy variety was fetching Rs 3,500-3,600 per quintal, as against Rs 2,800-2,900 at the same time last year.

But he couldn’t sell the harvested crop due to strike called by arhatiyas (commission agents) in Haryana for the past 3-4 days. He, then, decided to store it at his cattle shed. His problems have, however, now been compounded by the continuous rains during the last two days – which has also affected his ripened standing Pusa-1509 crop on the remaining three acres.

A farmer shows his damaged crop. (Express photo)

“The high moisture in the grain will lead to discolouration or even germination, bringing down its price,” said this farmer, who wants the government to allow him to sell directly to rice millers/shellers. “They have paddy driers, unlike the APMCs that don’t have facilities to bring down the moisture and prevent deterioration of the grain,” he added.

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Haryana and Delhi, on Friday alone, recorded 739 per cent and 1,027 per cent excess rains, respectively. The entire basmati belt from Sonepat and Panipat to Karnal, Kurukshetra and Ambala received heavy showers. Worse, rains have been forecast for the next two days as well.

“The damage will be mainly to short-duration basmati varieties such as Pusa-1509 and Pusa-1692, and also PR-126 (a non-basmati variety), which mature in 115-125 days. If these were transplanted before July 1 and sown in nurseries about 25 days earlier, they would be ready for harvesting. Their standing crop can suffer damage from lodging and the mature grains sprout in the plant itself,” said A.K. Singh, director of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute. No damage, however, has been reported to Pusa-1121 basmati and other longer-duration paddy varieties.

“I had planted Pusa-1509 and 1692 on 8 acres. Out of that, I have already harvested the crop on 5 acres and loaded the grain on two tractor-trolleys that are lying in the Karnal APMC mandis. These couldn’t be sold because of the strike by the arhatiyas. I am worried about both my harvested and mature standing crop on 3 acres,” said Jatinder Miglani, a farmer from Faridpur village in Karnal district’s Gharauna tehsil. Miglani is placing his hopes now on his Pusa-1121 crop on another 20 acres.

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Rajbeer Singh, a farmer from the neighbouring village of Staundi, is yet to harvest his Pusa-1509 basmati crop. “I cannot harvest till the water drains out from my field, which is currently inundated. If during this period, the grains turn black due to fungal infestation or germinate, it will be a huge loss,” he pointed out.

Vijay Setia, former president of the All-India Rice Exporters’ Association, said that the Haryana government should do two things. The first is to allow farmers to bring their crop directly to rice mills. Haryana has some 1,200 of them and these have facilities to dry paddy.

The second is to exempt paddy sold in the next three weeks from levies that add up to 6.5 per cent: 2 per cent APMC market fee, 2 per cent rural development cess and 2.5 per cent arhatiya commission. “The APMC mandis cannot handle paddy containing moisture of up to 30 per cent. The government must suspend imposition of market levies as well as compulsory sale in APMCs for three weeks so that farmers don’t suffer from low price realisations on rain-damaged paddy,” he said.

First published on: 24-09-2022 at 02:49:22 am
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