Haryana, the largest basmati growing state, has received normal rainfall so far this season, covering the deficit this month as it received 7 per cent lower than average rain in the first three months of monsoon starting June 1. However, heavy rainfall in some of the key basmati growing states, when harvesting has just started, is threatening to bring down yield or damage crops lying in field.

According to data of Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), three districts—Karnal, Panipat and Sonipat—have received 91.7 mm, 41.7 mm and 19.8 mm excess (over the normal) rainfall, respectively between September 1 and 24. While another district Jind has received 48 mm lesser than normal rains so far this month. These four districts are estimated to have 45 per cent share in the State’s total basmati area of 6.55 lakh hectares (lh), according to a study commissioned by government’s agri export promotion arm Apeda.

Basmati yield down by 0.3 mt

According to farmers in the three districts that received heavy rainfall in the past few days, the damage is minimal so far and limited to select varieties of basmati which were transplanted in the third or fourth week of June. With an average yield of 5 tonne/hectare, basmati production could have been 3.3 million tonnes (mt) in Haryana this year. However, the current damage has reduced the output to 3 mt.

“Only 5-7 per cent of crop has been affected in our village. Most of the harvesting will start mid-October as transplanting was done in July, and hopefully rain will stop now,” said Suresh Antil of Deepalpur village in Sonipat district. He said Pusa Basmati 1718, PB 1121 and PB 1692 are the main basmati varieties grown in that area.

‘Researchers need to do more’

“The impact of climate change is clearly visible. The wide variance of rainfall within a distance of 80 kilometer in the state this time has closely followed what happened in March-April when a heatwave shrivelled wheat grain just before the harvest,” said RS Rana, a farmer who turned to agriculture after leaving a private job. “Its time researchers think of delaying rainfall particularly during harvesting, as they are already successful in drawing artificial rainfall through cloud seeding,” he added.

‘Allow crop to rice mills directly’

Vijay Setia, a former president of All-India Rice Exporters Association, has demanded that the Haryana government should immediately allow farmers to bring their crop directly to rice mills instead of mandis as these rice processing units also have drying facilities for paddy. The purchases can be made at mills without arhtiya (commission agent) commission which may help improve rates that farmers’ receive, he said, adding farmers should not be allowed to suffer from low price realisations on high moisture contained paddy.

Exporters’ woes

Meanwhile, exporters of Haryana have expressed dissatisfaction over delay in reducing mandi fees as assured by the Chief Minister last month. They said reasonable relief was promised when they met the Chief Minister in the second week of August. Exporters claimed that basmati farmers pay 13 times more revenue to the government compared with what commission agents pay, as the state collects 2 per cent market fee, 2 per cent rural development cess and allows arhaiyas to charge 2.5 per cent, totalling 6.5 per cent paid by traders.