Chandigarh, September 18 : In a bid to promote organic farming in the state as desired by the Chief Minister Bhagwant Singh Mann, Punjab Government has undertaken a pilot project under which residue-free basmati has been cultivated in Chogawan block of Amritsar district. Residue-free practices entail minimal or no usage of chemicals. Punjab Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister Gurmeet Singh Khudian said that they have purposely chosen Chogawan block to carry out this pilot project due to this area being falls in the basin of Ravi River and having favourable climatic conditions to nurture the most aromatic long grain Basmati rice making it export quality produce.
“Basmati rice has a great export potential as most of the basmati produced in the region is being exported to the Arab, European and Middle-Eastern countries,” he said, while adding that presently, basmati rice has been exported to more than 60 countries, of which, Amritsar district alone exported Basmati rice around Rs 9000 crore during past year.
In order to increase the export potential of basmati rice from Punjab, Gurmeet Singh Khudian stated that Punjab Agriculture and Farmers Welfare department has also launched a large scale awareness campaign to sensitise farmers about the judicious use of pesticides for basmati crop, besides, making them aware regarding use of alternative pesticides rather than banned pesticides. As many as 10 insecticides/fungicides have been banned for application on basmati crop, he added.
The Agriculture Minister said that Chogawan block has around a total area of 32000 hectares cultivated area, of which, 28753 hectares is covered under the paddy crop and 25000 hectares are solely under the basmati crop in the block. Out of the total 102 villages, 42 villages of the block have been selected under the project, he said. Meanwhile, main cultivated varieties in the block are PUSA basmati 1718, PUSA basmati 1121, PUSA basmati 1885, PUSA basmati 1509, PUSA basmati 1692 and Punjab basmati-7.
INTENSIVE REACH OUT CAMPAIGN FOR FARMERS
Whole staff of the Agriculture department posted at Chogawan block has been pressed into service to reach out to all the farmers at all the selected villages to register them online on Basmati.net portal of Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA). As many as 3691 farmers have been shortlisted after the door-to-door survey conducted by the Agriculture department. Over 54 village level camps have been organised to sensitise farmers about banned pesticides, besides, checking all the sale points of pesticide dealers and taking stock reports of banned pesticides and strict instructions have also been issued to dealers regarding non sale of banned pesticides. Special literature compiled by PAU, Ludhiana is also being distributed among farmers.
SUPERVISORS, KISAN MITRAS & OTHER STAFF HIT THE FIELD
As many as 38 Kisan Mitras, three Supervisors and eight field Supervisors are regularly visiting the field and sensitizing farmers to yield export quality basmati. The entire staff has been trained by the scientists of PAU, so that they can guide farmers in right way. Apart from this, WhatsApp groups having over 2500 farmers have also been created wherein suggestions and informative literature is being shared.