SUBJECT :Agriculture 
With basmati not fetching desired prices for farmers in the last season, the area under the crop has dropped significantly in the Majha region and, as per an estimate, it may go down by 50,000 hectares.

Talking to The Tribune, Gurdaspur Chief Agriculture Officer Lakhwinder Singh confirmed that the number of farmers opting for the basmati crop had declined in the district. “Consequently, the area under basmati cultivation has dipped by 25 to 30 per cent as compared to last year. Basmati was cultivated on 1.24 lakh hectares last year but this time, the area has come down to 90,000 to 95,000 hectares,” he said. He said the area under sugarcane cultivation had witnessed an increase by almost 10 per cent. Similarly, the area under paddy cultivation had also gone up.

Amritsar Chief Agriculture Officer BS Chhina said the area under basmati cultivation had decreased by 12,000 hectares in the district. “As compared to 1.52 lakh hectares, basmati has been cultivated in 1.4 lakh hectares of land this time,” he said. He said basmati’s 1121 and 1509 varieties were the most preferred by farmers.

He attributed the trend to the fact that there was no minimum support price (MSP) for basmati, due to which the price of produce kept on fluctuating.

Farmer leader Rattan Singh Randhawa also felt that the area under basmati had dropped drastically in the region as the farmers didn’t get good returns in the last season. He said the government should ensure a string of measures to support farmers growing basmati. “Firstly, if the government has to export basmati, it should not impose any tax on it. Secondly, government agencies such as Markfed should purchase basmati from farmers at the MSP,” he added.

Farmers’ organisations have for long been demanding that the government should fix the minimum support price for basmati.

Source: 2 August, 2015, The Tribune