Jammu, July 2 (IANS) With an eye on growing national and international demand, Jammu’s agriculture department has begun cultivating organic basmati rice in the region.
“The organic paddy is produced using organic manure and no chemical fertiliser or pesticides are used in their growing,” Jammu Agriculture Director Ajay Khajuria told IANS.
Ranbir Singh Pura, also called R.S. Pura, is considered the rice bowl of Jammu as it produces top quality basmati rice which has a particular flavour and aroma.
“There are 35,000 hectares of land under basmati production in the region, of which the department has begun cultivation of organic paddy in 200 hectares in villages around Suchetgarh in the R.S. Pura sector, about 35 kilometres west of Jammu,” said Khajuria.
The growing trend worldwide of shifting from chemical to organic farming, higher prices for organic agricultural products and higher remuneration for growers has prompted the department to start organic rice farming.
Pointing to salient features of organic rice cultivation, Khajuria said “manures used are Vermi compost, bio-dynamic compost, microbe-mediated compost, besides slush of bio-gas units. The agriculture department is providing assistance for production of such manures.”
“Cow urine is one of the best pesticides which is substituting the chemical pesticides,” the official said.
Organic basmati rice fetches 25 percent more for farmers than the normal variety, which sells for about Rs.28,000 to Rs.29,000 per quintal. R.S.Pura produces 550,000 quintals of basmati rice.
“By introducing organic farming on commercial, scientific and organized lines the farmers can harvest rich dividends here and farming can become sustainable,” the official said.
According to Ajay Khajuria, the adaptation and certification by the union commerce ministry is given after three years of observation.
“This is our first year and hope we can do better than other states in northern India.”
Jammu’s main competitors in basmati rice exports are Punjab, Haryana and Uttarakhand.
“Their rice is definitely slightly longer in size but the aroma and flavor of Jammu basmati is much richer,” Khajuria said.
After Jammu and Kashmir lifted the ban on export of basmati in 2010, about 630 quintals of the rice was exported from the Jammu region during 2010-11 to the US and Middle East, which increased to 1,350 quintals in 2011-12.
“The exports are going to increase manifold once the organic basmati of Jammu hits national and international markets,” Khajuria said.
Fateh Singh, is one of the farmers in Suchetgarh, where 200 hectares of land have been brought under organic basmati cultivation.
“I used to earn sufficient amounts from basmati but now I am happy that organic basmati will hopefully fetch me better prices,” said Singh, two hectares of whose land has been brought within the state’s organic basmati rice programme.
(Binoo Joshi can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)