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Explained: Why has Punjab restricted use of 9 pesticides for Basmati

The Indian Express explains what it means to have these restrictions only for Basmati and not other crops.

Written by Anju Agnihotri Chaba | Jalandhar | Published: August 5, 2019 5:26:18 am
Punjab Agriculture Department, pesticides in basmati, basmati pesticides restricted, punjab farmers, punjab rice fields, express explained Experts examine Basmati crop in a field. Express

The Punjab Agriculture Department recently restricted the use of nine pesticides which are generally used for the Basmati crop in Punjab.

Which are the nine pesticides restricted for Basmati crop by the Punjab Agriculture Department?

Acephate, Carbendazim, Thiamethoxam, Triazofos, Tricyclazole, Buprofezin, Carbofuron, Propiconazole and Thiophanate Methyl. Most of these restricted pesticides and fungicides are not recommended by PAU, Ludhiana, for the Basmati crop but the farmers under the influence of pesticide companies, which have a vast network of dealers across the state, have been using them.

These pesticides have not been banned. They will be available for use in case of other crops. But restriction means that if farmers use them that incase residue of these chemicals shows at the time of testing by exporters then the produce will be rendered unfit for export.

Why has the usage of these pesticides been restricted only for Basmati?

In Basmati, there is a pressure from exporters, who have great stakes in the crop. Punjab has many big Basmati exporters. Over 40% of the total Basmati export of India is from Punjab due to huge demand of Punjab Basmati across the globe. In the past, Punjab Basmati has faced rejection due to detection of residue of such pesticides in the crop which are not permissible in Europe, US and other countries. The exporters started efforts at their level first to educate farmers against the harmful use of these pesticides and now the government has joined in. The Agriculture Department has been registering Basmati growers on Basmati portal (Basmati.in) so that the basmati produced could be of international quality.

Can authorities restrict usage of harmful pesticides for other crops?

“The same pesticides can be restricted for paddy which is grown in over 23-24 lakh hectares in Punjab but they are only focusing on Basamati crop,” said a senior scientist at PAU, adding some pesticides had been banned in the past but several non-recommended pesticides are still available for paddy, maize, cotton, vegetables, fruits.

“Government should control these pesticide dealers who are misleading innocent farmers for making huge profits. Several harmful pesticides are still available in the market which are used in vegetables and fruits meant for poor and common people of the country…You are saving the foreign nationals from the harmful effect of pesticides by sending them a ‘safe basmati’ where are you when it comes to the health of your own country’s nationals,” he pointed out.

What does it cost frames to use these non-recommended pesticides?

The use of these restricted pesticides makes the input cost go up Rs 2000 to Rs 4000 per season, with pesticide companies making a huge profit as 25 per cent of the total farmers in Punjab-grown Basmati.

Agricultural Development Officer, Pathankot, Dr Amrik Singh said that several such pesticides are being used by the farmers on the recommendation of pesticide dealers against the instructions of the agricultural experts.

How vulnerable is Basmati to pest attacks?

Agricultural experts say that Basmati is grown during such a period (in July) when naturally there is no pest attack on the crop during the initial stage.

Basically six to seven major diseases attack Basmati crop from beginning to end of the crop duration (July to November). But just finding a few insects and fungus does not mean that farmers need to spray pesticides and fungicides as there is always Economic Thresh-hold Level (ETL) level of for pests threatening the crop, and if it crosses that only then treatment is required. But farmers in Punjab are known to use pesticides as a preventive measure which is not recommended.

After the move, will Punjab now produce pesticide-free Basmati?

No. It would not be a 100 per cent ‘pesticide free’ Basmati, because farmers are free to use pesticides which are ‘safe’ and have less gestation period after the spray. These 9-pesticides have large gestation period and its residue level comes in the testing at the time of export. Farmers are allowed to use alternative recommended pesticides.

Experts said that total pesticide-free Basmati can be grown in Punjab under ‘pest management programme’ and farmers mindset need to be set in that direction. Farmer Harpreet Singh of Gurdaspur said: “I have not been using any recommended or non-recommended pesticide in my fields for the past four years because the sowing time of Basmati is highly favourable for the crop and there is no attack of pest which goes beyond ETL level. But our farmers have been using these because of their mindset without any need
of it.”

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