The Consortium of Indian Farmers Associations (CIFA) and the Federation of Farmers Associations (FFA) are demanding that the BPT 5204 rice variety of Sona Masuri (also called Samba Masuri) be removed from the general procurement scheme, and considered as a special exportable variety as was done in the case of Basmati.
“Owing to the demand for BPT 5204 in domestic and international markets, we are asking Centre to allow fair trade in this variety,” B Dasaratha Rami Reddy, president of FFA, told Business Standard.
Developed by the Acharya N G Ranga Agricultural University at Bapatla Research Station in Guntur district in 1985, BPT 5204 is cultivated on 5 million acre in drought-prone areas of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka and some parts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, with an annual paddy yield of 8 million tonne. Andhra Pradesh is the only state imposing restrictions on sale of BPT 5204 across the borders.
Rami Reddy said BPT 5204 was highly susceptible to blast and blight, and hence required huge investments to grow. Besides, the crop duration is 15-20 days more than other high-yielding varieties, he added.
“While the average yield of 1010 variety is 21 quintal per acre, it is only 16-17 quintal for BPT 5204. However, the Centre is extending the same minimum support price of Rs 1,080 per quintal to BPT 5204 along with other normal varieties, which is non-remunerative for the farmers cultivating this premium-grade, medium-size rice variety,” he said.
According to P Chengal Reddy, secretary general of CIFA, the consortium is working on a traceability system to track the origins of some food products — Sona Masuri rice, Banginapally mangoes, Punganoor tamarind, Chakrakeli bananas and Miryalaguda sweet lime — which are grown in Andhra Pradesh.
“The opening up of retail trade to FDI will usher in revolutionary changes to the Indian farmers by providing backward and forward linkages with retailers and the processing industries. Our idea (tracing origins) is to make good on this opportunity by branding our produce and selling them through large retailers, in India and abroad,” he said.
Eight cooperative societies, comprising 8,000 farmers affiliated to CIFA, have already supplied Rs 2 crore worth of mangoes to Coca-Cola in Chittoor district, besides supplying soya to ITC’s eChoupals.
Stating that marketing was the biggest problem confronted by the farmers for which the FDI will help in finding a solution, Reddy said, “Farmers in the country are bound to increase productivity as the retailers need uniform quality.”