January 24, 2014 3:17:01 am
Basmati rice, in the cultivation of which Madhya Pradesh has already taken long strides, has finally got what it had been seeking for a long time: a geographical indication (GI) tag.
The state, known mainly for its soybean, wheat and pulses, had challenged the decision of Agricultural & Processed Food Products Export Development Agency (APEDA), which functions under the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry, to deny basmati produced here the GI label on the ground that it lacked the credentials.
The Chennai-based Geographical Indications Registry recently quashed the objections raised against the inclusion of MP basmati rice, paving the way for a brighter future for the aromatic grain, farmers who grow it and millers.
While the basmati produced here was anyway being exported, the GI tag will bring a host of benefits such as a distinct identity and a higher price in the export market. The victory has been a combination of political will and a push given by private companies that stand to benefit, especially in MP which has only recently started realising basmati’s true potential.
While seeking recognition, MP had argued that its basmati has characteristics such as long, slender kernels with a high length-to-breadth ratio, an exquisite aroma, a sweet taste, a soft texture, a delicate curvature, an intermediate amylase content, high integrity of grain on cooking and linear kernel elongation with the least breadth-wise swelling on cooking.
A map showing constant production of basmati paddy, climatic conditions during the last three decades, official rainfall figures, DNA reports of basmati seeds, affidavits of more than 175 farmers, seeds distributed by the government, participation of the private sector and historical documents to prove sowing of basmati paddy in Gwalior and Bagwai areas were among the 22 items submitted as proof by the state government to argue against denial of the GI tag.
Farmers stated that they had been growing basmati for several decades using traditional techniques, and recently using new techniques such as SRI (Medagasker technique). MP being located in the Indo-Gangetic plains, the climatic conditions favour cultivation of basmati, farmers said, and argued that denial of the GI tag would adversely affect them, especially those who are mainly dependent on basmati.
The government had pointed out in its application that the area under basmati cultivation ranges from 26,000 to 29,000 hectares. According to a survey conducted in 2009, 4.5 lakh tonnes basmati was cultivated, a subsantial chunk of which was exported.
Principal secretary (agriculture) Rajesh Rajora said the GI tag will further boost basmati cultivation. He said applications filed by many rice millers were pending before the government and there will be pressure to expedite their clearance. He struck a note of caution, however, about the possibility of APEDA challenging the recent order.
Consultant to Daawat Foods K K Tiwari, too, said the GI tag will have a huge impact on cultivation. After Daawat’s intervention a few years ago, basmati cultivation had jumped because farmers had an assured market.
Tiwari claims some farmers have started making one lakh per acre, something that could not have been imagined a few years ago. He said basmati cultivation has increased at the cost of soybean in Hoshangabad, Bareli and Salkanpur.
While the minimum support price for ordinary paddy is Rs 1,200 per quintal, basmati fetches between Rs 4,000 and Rs 5,200 for the same quantity.
Agriculture expert G S Kaushal said farmers and companies will benefit from new competition. He said so far the market was dominated mostly by Daawat, which will now have to compete with new players. “Farmers will be able to negotiate. At the moment, Daawat has a monopoly,” he said.`
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