Basmati farmers in Fazilka at mercy of private traders

Heaps of basmati at the Fazilka grain market. Photo by TNS

Fazilka, October 23: Cultivators of the popular 1121 variety of basmati in Fazilka allege that they are being fleeced by private traders who are lifting their produce at lower prices. “The farmers are being offered a price of around Rs 3,220 per quintal as compared to Rs 3,500 per quintal in the adjoining grain markets of Malout and Muktsar. Private traders and exporters have connived to keep the prices low,” alleged Nishan Singh of Rana village.

Private traders, rice mill owners and exporters are bulk buyers of this fine variety. No minimum support price (MSP) is announced by the government for this variety, leaving farmers to the mercy of traders.

Parduman Kumar Beganwali, president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, Fazilka district, said: “The government has no concrete policy on this basmati variety which consumes less water as compared to other varieties. Farmers switched over to this variety on the persuasion of the government which has now let them down,” he said. Lakhwinder Singh of Hasta Kalan village deplored the “apathetic” attitude of the government. After the farmers raised a hue and cry, the basmati was purchased at Rs 3,607 per quintal this evening.

“Traders from outside and exporters have been purchasing basmati at a higher price. The Market Committee shall not allow the exploitation of farmers at the hands of private traders,” said Salodh Kumar Bishnoi, secretary, Market Committee, Fazilka.

Fazilka is one of the major basmati belts in the state. Official sources said 1,65,750 quintals of basmati had arrived at the local grain market and its 20 purchase centres so far.