Jasbir Singh, a farmer from Ferozepur village, said: "Three years ago, the price of basmati crop was Rs 4,000 per quintal. Every year, private shellers are paying less and less and this year, prices have fallen to Rs 1,600 per quintal even for the finest quality. The average quality is getting as low as Rs 1,400 per quintal."
According to sources in the mandis, exporters still have the previous year's stock left with them and therefore, do not want to buy more. They have also reduced the advance payments to the rice shellers.
The shellers, on the other hand, are giving payment at one month credit to the ahrtiyas — the rate was one week only last year. Due to the delayed payment, ahrtiyas were not ready to make swift payments to farmers, which in turn, was leading farmers to sell their stock at throwaway prices.
When contacted, Director (Agriculture) B S Sidhu, said: "Area under basmati cultivation has increased from 5.5 lakh hectare to 6 lakh hectare this year. Looking at the dismal pricing of the crop, we appeal to the Centre to appoint an agency on the lines of the Cotton Corporation of India for basmati crop. MSP for this crop should also be fixed. The agency should step in when the prices in mandis fall below the MSP. These steps are a must because basmati helps in improving the water table as well, as it absorbs less water."
Rajiv Ahuja, a commission agent, said: "I sold my product in Jalalabad mandi after waiting for more than 15 days. There is hardly any activity in Fazilka and Jalalabad mandis. International pricing of Basmati has fallen and even exporters have piled up stocks and therefore, this crisis. Farmers will have to bear the brunt if the government fixes no MSP for the crop."