PUNJAB-based rice millers and exporters would like former Indian cricketer and commentator Navjot Singh Sidhu to be the face for the global Basmati promotion campaign.
The exporters had earlier raised objections against featuring Bollywood star Sharukh Khan. The All India Rice Exporters' Association along with the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) had finalised the Rs 21 crore campaign to be financed by the Basmati Development Fund (BDF).
Speaking to ET, the Punjab Rice Millers and Exporters Association president Ashok Sethi said, "We are not against Sharukh Khan, but against so much money being spend on mere advertising. Unlike SRK who demands Rs 3-4 crore, our Navjot Sidhu would do the promotional activity for free. His charismatic personality and Punjabi raw appeal will make him an instant hit across the world."
The exporters and farmers opine that such a huge amount could be used for other important and essential activities to benefit the farmers. "In this season we spent Rs 14.32 lakh to encourage and increase sowing area for Basmati, super and Pusa varieties in Punjab which we got sanctioned form the BDF fund. Farmers are demanding assured prices, increase in bonus, loan availability etc for which we need to address. If the farmers are happy then only trade will progress," said a leading rice exporter from Punjab.
On the question of whether the batsman, cum comedian cum BJP MP from Amritsar would like to be the brand ambassador for the promotion he said that Mr Sidhuwould do anything to promote the farmers cause. "At the end of the day the farmer should be one of the beneficiaries apart from exporters and traders," he said.
However, The All India Rice Exporters' Association chairman Vijay Setia informed that in the current globalise scenario there was a need to market a product with an international personality. " Discussions on this topic with other members will be held soon," he said.
The Rs 21-crore campaign was divided into two segments of Rs 10.50 crore each for the Middle East (Quwait, Bahrain, Dubai, Doha and Iran) and Europe( UK, France and Germany). Out of the 9.5 lakh ton export of Basmati , 6.5 lakh ton is exported to the middle east, followed by 2.2 lakh ton to the UK markets.