Early variety of rice — PUSA 1509 (basmati rice) — has already started hitting grain markets in the state with farmers fetching an opening price which is around Rs 200 lower than last year. In 2018, the same variety fetched Rs Rs 2500 to 2600 per quintal, compared to Rs 2300/2500 this year.
While traders said that US sanctions on Iran, which is a big importer of Basmati from India, was the reason behind the slump, the farmers blamed the arhtiyas of ganging up to show less demand in order to keep the prices artificially lower.
Basmati crop is procured by the private players and paddy is procured by government beginning October 1 after main paddy varieties (non-basmati) reach the markets.
Meanwhile, farmers also said that government procurement arrangements should be made a week in advance as and not from October 1 as this time paddy sowing was done a week in advance, from June 13 as against June 20 last year. Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh had announced early paddy sowing this year.
The opening price for basmati’s early variety has worried farmers who grow late basmati variety- PUSA 1121 and PUSA 1718, which last year fetched Rs 3300 to 4000 per quintal. Both these are much superior varieties and come in the market in October.
Ujagar Singh, a farmer who sold his crop at Tarn Taran grain market, said: “I have sold around 500 quintals of PUSA 1509 in last 5 days and the rate on the first day on September 11 was Rs 2500 per quintal, while today I sold it at the rate of Rs 2300 per quintal as traders and arhtiyas fleece farmers due to no control of the government over its price.”
“Traders create false market price when there is peak arrival period of the crop in the mandis and after that the rates suddenly goes up,” said another farmer, Onkar Singh, who sold his crop at the rate of Rs 2500 per quintal Sunday at Sultanpur Lodhi Market. He said farmers have to go by the wishes of traders as they cannot hold back the crop once it is harvested and has to bring in the mandi.
“The rate of the crop should have been around Rs 2800 to 3000 per quintal, but it will be that once farmers have sold it, and it is time for the traders to mint money,” said farmer Davinder Singh, who had sold yield from his 20 acres in the past one week.
Former chairman of Punjab Mandi Board, Ravinder Singh Cheema, said: “It is because of US sanctions on Iran, which is major importer of Basmati from India, that the situation is not clear about how much basmati will be exported to Iran this time. This has impacted prices in Punjab.”
A basmati exporter said that around 16 lakh tonnes basmati worth Rs 12,000 to Rs 13,000 crores is exported to Iran and this time they were worried due to US sanctions.
“This time we are expecting production of around 8 lakh metric tonnes of 1509 variety and it is arriving in Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Batala, Tarn Taran, Dhuri, Sunam, Phagwara, Fazilka, Sultanpur Lodhi markets,” said Cheema.