Riding on strong overseas demand especially from Iran and Saudi Arabia, the value of basmati rice exports jumped by 50.96%.
According to the figures available with the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Agency, India exported about 37.57 lakh tonnes basmati rice from April 2013 to March 2014 valued at Rs 29,299.96 crore. In the previous season about 34.59 lakh tonnes of basmati rice was exported for Rs 19,409.38 crore to the country's rice exporters.
Iran is the biggest importer by accounting for 37.46% of the total value of the trade like the preceding year. India exported about 14.41 lakh tonnes of basmati rice to Iran worth Rs 10,975.71 crore. Saudi Arabia was second by buying about 8.26 lakh tonnes at Rs 6,717.06 crore which is 22.93% of the total trade value.
The surge in basmati rice demand overseas set the cash registers of exporters ringing and it also bode well for the Indian farmers particularly from Punjab and Haryana who contribute nearly 70% to country's basmati output.
Rates of paddy of evolved basmati varieties like Pusa 1121 and PB 1509 were in the range of Rs 3,500 to Rs 4,500 per quintal in major mandis of Punjab and Haryana.
In 2013-14, Punjab had about 5.59 lakh hectares (ha) of area under basmati with an output of 14.87 lakh tonnes while in Haryana the area under the crop was 7.21 lakh ha producing 18.90 lakh tonnes.
Hoping the export demand to remain bullish, farmers in both states are planning to increase the basmati acreage but agriculture department officials and experts have advised caution. Punjab farm department has set the target of area under basmati in the state this kharif season at 6.40 lakh ha up by nearly 80,000 ha from last year.
Punjab commissioner of agriculture Balwinder Singh Sidhu said farmers need to be cautious as basmati prices are dependent on export demand. "There is no imminent threat to basmati demand in the international market, still farmers may not get as high rates as they got last year," he said.
Farm economist P S Rangi, marketing consultant with the Punjab State Farmers Commission, said, "It is advised that farmers should not increase their cropping area under basmati dramatically as it could lead to higher output, which may not match pace with the demand."