A farmer in a remote village in Tirupulani block has surprised one and all by cultivating the alien basmati in this drought-prone district.
While the variety may not be a match for those cultivated in Punjab, Haryana and Jammu and Kashmir, it still commands a good market price as it is grown organically.
Farmers at a monthly grievance day meeting at the Collectorate recently were astonished when S. Ameer Muthar from Kovilansathan village in Mallal panchayat shared his success story of cultivating ‘basmati’ for two years in a row.
The group was only more surprised when he said he had sold the rice at Rs. 80 per kg in organic shops last year and such was the demand from organic food lovers that he was not able to meet it.
“The rice could be of second-grade quality or even less, but more than a dozen organic shops in Chennai evinced interest in buying the rice as this is probably the only basmati rice grown organically,” says Muthar.
This tenth-generation farmer owns about seven acres of land and began cultivating the variety in 2011, when his uncle introduced the seeds to him. “I was sceptical but tried them out in an eight cents-plot,” he said. Following the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) method, he then cultivated the variety on one acre last year and reaped a bumper harvest of 38 bags of 50 kg each, he said.
He applies only organic fertilisers such as green manure, compost manure, neem cake and ‘panja kaviyam’ (bio-pesticide mixture of ginger, garlic and green chillies), spending about Rs. 20,000 per acre, he says.
While irrigation is a problem, he manages with whatever little water is left in the nearby ‘kanmai’ (water body). The crop, now cultivated in one-and-a-half acres, is due for harvest in another couple of days and already, 20 to 30 farmers in Paramakudi, Parthibanur and Sathirakudi have booked in advance for the seeds, he says with a sense of triumph.