Jorhat, Nov. 1: A cherished paddy, similar to Basmati, has made its debut in Assam with farmers at Lahowal in Dibrugarh district having successfully harvested a crop of it.
However, it will take a while to reach the people’s plates as there is no rice mill in Assam, which can handle this variety.
The crop will be used as breeder seeds for now so that more farmers can take up cultivation of the Basmati-like paddy and gain greater profits.
This feat was achieved with the help of CIL Agrotech Ltd, a private company, which obtained the rice variety, Basmati Sugandh 5, from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi and distributed it free of cost.
Suresh Verma, director, CIL Agrotech, said the yield obtained from 96 bighas of land sown with this variety of Basmati at Bhimpora village of Lahowal was about 20,000kg of seed, of which 14,000-15,000kg was good quality seed.
The amount of seed from over 1,000 hectares could yield a value of Rs 26 crore.
“If more farmers take up this crop then they will get greater returns. The seed of this variety sells for Rs 20 a kg whereas for other varieties, it is nearly Rs 7-8. If de-husked and sold as rice they will get about Rs 60 in the Indian market. The amount of Basmati paddy which could be had from 1,000 hectares of land would be nearly 5,000 tonnes and rice nearly 3,200 tonnes,” Verma said.
Verma added that his company would be willing to buy the seed back from the farmers and if the quantity increased manifold then they could even plan to set up a de-husking mill.
“The Basmati rice requires a different kind of mill because of its elongated-grain features and more investment. This could be set up if there is a requirement,” he said.
Sanjay Kumar Chetia, a scientist at the Titabar Rice Research Station under the Assam Agricultural University, said he had been contacted by the company prior to sowing of the seed.
“Basmati is difficult to grow in Assam because of environmental factors. If the Sugandh 5 variety, which is not direct Basmati but part of the group, has been grown successfully, then it is good news,” Chetia said.
Chetia said earlier experiments to grow Basmati in Assam had failed because of the rice variety either losing its aroma or elongation because of local environmental factors, he added.
“Basmati has been found to grow best in climate and soils of Uttaranchal and Punjab and is difficult to grow here,” he said.
A senior rice scientist said Basmati rice grown only in a specified geographical region covering Punjab, Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal and parts of Rajasthan may be labelled Basmati for export purposes.
“If it is grown outside this area, it cannot be labeled Basmati,” said Mariappan Nagarajan, a scientist at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute Rice Breeding Centre at Aduthurai in Tamil Nadu.
“We have farmers in Tamil Nadu who bring seeds from Punjab and grow the rice, but it can’t be labeled Basmati,” Nagarajan said.
Verma said samples sent to the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Delhi for verification suggest that the characteristics of the rice had been retained and that this had been affirmed.