BJP slams ban on export of non-basmati rice
THE BJP on Monday renewed its attack on the anti-farmer policies of the UPA government, seeking an immediate reversal of the ban on export of non-basmati rice. The move follows the BJP’s demand for a higher minimum support price for paddy to help the farmers in southern states. The decision to ban the export of non-basmati rice was cleared by the Cabinet Committee for Economic Affairs on October 9. This, together with the decision to categorise rice varieties such as Pusa 1121, RH 10, Muchal, Sarbati, Shabnam and Sugandh as non-basmati, meant that the farmers “will be deprived of a good price and will be forced to go in for distress sale”, says the BJP. These rice varieties were earlier sold as basmati. During 2006-07, 10.41 lakh tonnes of basmati rice, valued at Rs 2,778.31 crore, were exported, while exports of non-basmati were at 37.05 lakh tonnes, valued at Rs 4,257.88 crore. Interestingly, about 50% of the area under basmati has been sown under Pusa- 1121, another 25% with CSR-30. Just 25% of the area was under officially notified basmati varieties, including Pusa Basmati-1 and traditional tall cultivars. The BJP contends that this sudden decision to ban exports of non-basmati rice has hurt the farmers. In Haryana, “lakhs of tonnes of rice is lying unsold in mandis of Jind, Narela, Kurushetra, Peohwa, Karnal. Rice worth more than Rs 200 crore is also waiting for exports at various ports, “the BJP said. Party spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said, “This decision is the latest in the long list of anti-farmer policies of the UPA government.” He referred to the displacement of farmers for procuring land for special economic zones (SEZ), the failure of PM’s relief package to stem the tide of suicide by farmers, allowing foreign investors to buy agriculatural land, and the bias against paddy farmers, who are offered a lower minimum support price than wheat.