Dec 10, 2018
India plans to export 4 mn tons of basmati rice this fiscal year, exporting nearly same as last year’s 4.1 mn tons, even though the production is witnessing a decline by 5-7% on year, A.K. Gupta, director, Basmati Export Development Fund, an arm of Agricultural Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) said.
“Exports could have been higher but for lack of availability,” Gupta stated.
In 2017-18 (Apr-Mar), India’s basmati exports were valued at Rs.268.70 bn, according to data available from APEDA.
Due to fall in the production of basmati rice, export prices are seen on the higher side throughout the year.
Exports would have taken a hit because of higher prices, “but since India is the world’s top exporter this should not be a problem. Pakistan is a distant second,” Gupta said.
India’s basmati exports to Iran might see a better trade in the coming months as the US may exempt India from its sanctions on the some West Asian countries. Nevertheless, export is unlikely as Indian basmati rice lack exportable quantity.
“What will also keep a lid on exports are stringent norms on residual limits that have been adopted by the European Union and have hit India’s exports to the region since January”, Gupta said.
After European Union imposed ban of the Indian basmati rice , Saudi Arabia also tightened residual limit norms for import of rice from India. Thus, India’s basmati exports to Saudi Arabia hit a barrier in June 2018, when the kingdom implemented the strict norms of maximum residual limit. Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Iran are the three biggest importers of basmati rice fromIndia and together account for 70-80% of impoert.
“In many products Saudi Arabia has its own residual norms, but chemicals for which they do not have any policy, it relies on the European Union and the US”, Gupta said.
“Saudi Arabia has (now) agreed not to follow the EU norms blindly, and would look at it on a case-by-case basis,” Gupta said. “I can say tricyclazole is (now) not an issue in Saudi. EU is strict about it…if that is settled we would have relief. We are following it up with the EU.”
Any fall in agricultural output would also hamper India’s export prospects.
The bureau has estimated India’s basmati rice output in 2018-19 (Jul-Jun) at 5.31 mn ton around 6% lower in related FY.
“The fall in output can be attributed to the shift in acreage to non-basmati rice and late rains in September, which may have hurt yields. Also, basmati growers have shifted to non-basmati varieties following an increase in the government-mandated minimum support price,” Gupta said.
“Assured government procurement at remunerative prices along with easy access to markets make non-basmati rice an attractive option for farmers,” Gupta pointed out.
“Easy availability of high-yielding varieties of non-basmati paddy ensures better yields and higher returns. I think farmers make only marginally higher money in basmati because productivity is less, price is high for crop care. There are also issues related to controlled usage of pesticides in basmati crop to comply with norms on residual limits. “For farmers, it is easy to grow non-basmati and marketing is easy,” Gupta said.
In districts like Muzaffarnagar, Bagpat, Meerut, some basmati growers have shifted to sugarcane in a hope of higher state-advised price for cane, he said.
Basmati is grown during Jun-Jul and harvested in month of Oct-Nov. There are seven geographically identified regions in the country where basmati is grown – Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi, western Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand. Pusa 1509 a basmati variety is increasingly becoming a preferred variety as it is a short duration crop and gives better yield, he said.
In regions of Uttar Pradesh, cultivators are moving away from the traditional 1121 basmati paddy variety as it is prone to pest attack, against which they had to use pesticide. Application of high usage of chemicals and pesticides reduces chances of making it to the export market, Gupta said.