Punjab pushes ‘pesticide free’ Basmati

Anju Agnihotri Chaba
This effort is to achieve total compliance with EU Maximum Residue Level (MRLs). (Express photo)

To save Basmati export to Europe, USA and Arab countries, Punjab, which is highest user of fertilisers and insecticides per hectare in the country much above the national average, has launched a pesticide-free Basmati campaign in the state.

Basmati exporters and Basmati growers in the state are now working together to use less pesticides in order meet the new guidelines of the European Union (EU) and other countries regarding the Basmati import from India.

This effort is to achieve total compliance with EU Maximum Residue Level (MRLs).

The Department of Agriculture, through its network of field officers, would recruit fresh agriculture graduates to fan out to all the Basmati clusters in the state and directly remain in touch with the farmers.

Farmers too are happy with this joint move of government and exporters as they said that they always wanted to have precise knowledge about the usage of pesticides and fertilisers.

In Punjab, farmers mainly grow Basmati Varieties 1509 and 1121, the sowing of which would be started in July.

The state has also asked pesticides companies to strictly comply with the instructions of PAU and not to pitch the sale of banned pesticides for the Basmati crop.

Basmati farmer Satnam Singh of Tanda in Hoshiarpur, said that such step of government would be a big help for farmers who are being fleeced by the private companies to sell their pesticides and some times they overused them due to lack of knowledge.

We have been spending huge amount on the pesticides and if we can grow Basmati without using that, it would be a great achievement, said another farmer Ajit Singh of Salempur Masanda Village in Jalandhar.

Punjab uses highest fertilisers per hectare in the country at 212 kg, while the usage of insecticides has come down by 40 per cent in past two decades but still it is high with 556 gm pesticides per hectare.

Rice exporters and Punjab government with active collaboration with Agriculture Export Development Authority (APEDA) under the Ministry of Commerce have joined hands this year to launch traceability (Backward Integration) through Internet services to register the Basmati farmers across Punjab, said Punjab Agriculture Secretary KS Pannu, adding that this service would link the Basmati farmers for all backup services including update on the use of pesticides and fertilisers from exporters and the department.

He stressed upon that the Basmati growers must go by the advice of the APEDA for judicious use of only recommended pesticides by the Punjab Agriculture University (PAU), Ludhiana and the Department of Agriculture as any excessive use of prohibited chemicals would thwart our efforts to export this Basmati in large quantities.

The president of Punjab Rice Millers and Exporters Association Arvinder Pal Singh said that the area under Basmati cultivation will go up from 5.68 lakh hectares to 6.5 lakh hectares as the price of Basmati had touched a new high last season.

He added that though government s efforts started last year, exporters became a part of the campaign only this year.

Director of the Association Ashok Sethi said the awareness programme would continue from July onwards till October end and will include farmers workshops and camps involving experts from APEDA and the PAU.