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India single largest Exporter of both Basmati and Non Basmati (Export of Basmati 3.9 Million Tons and Non Basmati 7.2 Million Tons period 2021-22). Water scenario is indeed grim, and requires drastic measures as sadly thealarmingrate at which the depletion of precious Groundwater caused a huge concern for Punjab and the rest of the Country, as every Kilogram of Rice requires 2500 – 3000 litres of Water. It is a grave situation and needs urgent steps on war footing to save our Agriculture which is heavily dependent on Water and Rains.

Punjab, which had never grown Paddy as a Kharif Crop before the advent of Green Revolution in the sixties and have since been producing Paddy to feed our hungry population, during the last six decades; we have reached a stage of no return. As per the Ground Water Resources Report Published in 2017 have drawn a grim picture and the water table will fall to abysmal low level. The stage will reach one day that there would be No Water and No Agriculture.

We all have to brace this situation as the time is running out, in now and only now, together and come out with a comprehensive project and implement it on the ground.

Basmati which is a premier and heritage produce of Punjab have created a huge and large market in the world known for its flavour, length and taste due to excellent weather, soil, river and canal irrigation conditions only available in Punjab, Haryana parts of Western U.P. and some Jammu areas.

Basmati Paddy requires far less Water irrigation (only 2 or 3 times) during the period of cultivation.

The Total Basmati Rice Export from India is 4 Million Tons worth Rs.36,000/- Crores out of which Punjab contributes more than 35 to 40% of the Export and brings large Foreign Exchange to the Country and to the State.

The Indian enterprising Business Community established Big Basmati Rice Brands including World Famous Lal Qilla, Daawat, India Gate, Aeroplane, Maharani, Hello, Crown etc. to emerge world leaders.

India in its pursuit for higher yield to meet ever growing domestic and international demand, Indian Agricultural Scientists developed new High Yielding varieties as the Traditional 386 variety would give 12-14 Quintals, the farmers did not favour to plant 386 because of low yield. The new seed varieties introduced in 2010 like Pusa Basmati 1121 and later introduced 1509 and 1718 which gives 18 quintal plus yield.

This 1121 saw phenomenal growth and markets around the world accepted this variety and triggered its growth as it was readily accepted by the Iranians and Saudi Arabia. Both the nations gave a big boost to amazing export orders and Indian Exporters never looked back. The 1121 Pusa Basmati slowly found inroads in European, American and Canadian markets besides all small and big countries lined up for getting Indian Rice.

The Basmati cultivation should be encouraged with a planned road map and it should be used to discourage and dissuade Farmers from planting Non-Basmati Varieties. It would save a considerable amount of water and save Punjab from imminent disaster. At present the area under Basmati cultivation in Punjab is about 4.85 Lacs hectares, rather low, and the area under Basmati is declining because of rising MSP year after year, due to Govt. procurement of Non Basmati Paddy for buffer stocks as food security.

All the stakeholders, the State Governments, Agriculture Universities, APEDA and the Rice Milling and Exporting Industries should prepare a master plan for time bound implementation to jointly educate farmers through awareness programmes. We suggest that genuine standardized Basmati Seeds should be made available to the farmers and to provide proper training during nursery, plantation as per time schedule given by the agriculture experts during the middle and end of June and cultivation duration.

About the author:
Ashok Sethi

Ashok Sethi Ashok Sethi, comes from a family of journalists and he himself worked with The Tribune, region’s popular English daily, for two decades. He has many stories of national and international relevance to his credit. He is currently a director with the rice exporters association and is also involved in philanthropy. Sethi is president of Amritsar blind institute, one of the oldest in the country and also associated with the Chinmaya mission.

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