New Delhi: Rice exporters today demanded immediate withdrawal of the notification that allowed overseas sales of Pusa-1121 variety, saying that permitting its shipment under non-basmati category would degrade the value of the premium quality rice which is the world’s longest grain.
The Director General of Foreign Trade under the Commerce Ministry yesterday issued a notification allowing exports of PUSA-1121 variety of non-basmati rice from October 15. It also fixed the minimum export price (MEP) at $1,200 (Rs 48,000) per ton.
Flaying the decision of the Commerce Ministry, All India Rice Exporters Association President vijay Sethia said: “This (notification) is totally wrong. It should be immediately recalled”.
By declaring the Pusa 1121 variety as a non- basmati rice, the Commerce Ministry has undermined the value of the premium variety, he added.
Sethia feared that foreign buyers would not pay the price which Pusa 1121 was fetching in the international market if it continues to be treated as non-basmati.
The scientists have already agreed that Pusa 1121 is basmati rice, he said, adding Punjab Government has also issued a notification in April this year declaring Pusa 1121 as basmati.
Industry sources said exporters were already shipping the Pusa 1121 variety as basmati rice for last three years.
After the ban on non-basmati rice, imposed in April, the exporters were able to sell Pusa 1121 in the overseas market on the basis of Punjab government’s notification, they added.
The Committee of Secretaries (CoS) in July this year entrusted the issue of Pusa-1121 to the Agriculture Ministry and asked it to carefully examine the proposal to declare the variety as basmati rice keeping in view the availability and domestic prices.
Sethia demanded that the Agriculture Ministry should act fast and declare Pusa 1121 as basmati rice. He also wondered how the government has fixed the MEP of Pusa 1121 variety higher than the basmati rice.
The basmati MEP stands at $1,000 per ton. Besides, the Centre has also imposed an export tax of Rs8,000 a ton.
In Haryana, about 70% of the area under basmati is Pusa 1121 variety, while in Punjab it is 55-60%. Haryana rice millers are on strike for the last 13 days that has led to suspension of the government procurement. One of their demands is to declare Pusa 1121 as basmati.
The Pusa 1121 has all the qualities of basmati in terms of elongation, aroma, non-stickiness, softness and fluffy texture. This rice variety has eight mm length which expands to 18 mm after cooking. It was developed by Indian Agricultural Research Institute, which is popularly known as Pusa, in 2003.
However, as per the current definition of basmati, any hybrid variety to be called as basmati should have genes from at least one traditional variety. The Pusa 1121 does not qualify under this provision as it has no immediate direct linkage with traditional varieties.
There are six traditional varieties - Taraori, Dehradun, Ranbir, 217, 370, 386 and two hybrids - Pusa and Haryana of basmati grown in India, which are notified under the Seed Act.