Chandigarh: India’s top grain-producers Punjab and Haryana will raise planting of basmati rice as floods have washed away the recently sown regular grades, farmers and trade officials said on Monday.
Basmati rice can be planted late, but yields are much lower than regular grades, with farmers also having to face fluctuating market prices, unlike common rice grades that official agencies buy at fixed, attractive rates.
“Paddy output will certainly drop this year. However, farmers have started sowing basmati varieties now and its (basmati) acreage will surely increase,” BS Duggal, additional director with the state farm department, told Reuters.
Floods in two districts of Haryana and parts of neighbouring Punjab after heavy rains in early July had swamped paddy fields in the region, even though rainfall in most parts of India has been below normal this year.
The weather office last week said monsoon rains, which irrigate 60% of the country’s farms, were 24% below normal in the week to 14 July.
Duggal said the government was advising farmers to sow basmati grades in nurseries and transplant them in early August.
“Earlier, we were expecting around 50% of the total area under rice to be covered by basmati this year in Haryana. But now, basmati acreage is bound to rise beyond 65% of total area under rice.”
Farmers in the two states said they have already started cultivating basmati rice varieties.
“Most of the rice crop was damaged in the floods. Now with no time left to sow the normal paddy varieties, I’m planting basmati in my fields,” said Tek Chand Sonthi, a farmer in Kurukshetra in Haryana.
Vijay Setia, president of the All India Rice Exporters Association, said he expected a rise in basmati acreage.
In neighbouring Punjab, where only small parts are flooded, basmati’s share in rice cultivation is expected to rise to up to 28% from 25^ estimated earlier, said PS Rangi, marketing consultant of Punjab State Farmers Commission (PSFC).
In 2009, basmati acreage in Haryana was around 550,000 hectares out of 1.2 million hectares where rice was planted, while in Punjab, it stood at 511,000 hectares of the 2.82 million hectares of total rice cultivation.