“It possesses the feature of being a fine variety when grown in Cauvery delta’’

“Ponni,” the most preferred variety of rice in the State, has caught the imagination of people in Singapore too.

Between January and August this year, the South East Asian country consumed 92,865 tonnes of Ponni rice, compared to 85,816 tonnes of Jasmine rice (“Thai Hom Mali”) of Thailand and 77,459 tonnes of Jasmine of Vietnam, according to a report published in Straits Times a few days ago.

Talking about its features, M. Mahadevappa, former Vice-chancellor of the University of Agricultural Sciences – Dharwad, who had developed and released a number of rice varieties, says that Ponni, which forms among the top rice varieties in India, is liked by people because of its taste. It has different derivatives and its equivalent is called “Gowri” in Karnataka. The genesis of the variety can be traced to “mahsuri” of Malaysia which has been improved upon in different parts of India, depending upon local conditions.

S. Ranganathan, general secretary of the Cauvery Delta Farmers’ Welfare Association, says that Tamil-speaking people have taken a liking for Ponni due to a number of reasons. Apart from the aesthetic value, this variety is ideal for use as boiled rice. For non-vegetarians, it is the most suitable for “briyani.” Its yield is low with 3.5 tonnes to five tonnes per hectare whereas the productivity of “Savithri” or “Ponmani” is five to seven tonnes per hectare. However, the other variety is used for “idli.”

He adds that of late the BPT variety of rice [named after Bapatla in Guntur,Andhra Pradesh] is having more takers as its yield is marginally better than Ponni.

A senior official in the State Agriculture Department says that as per a rough estimate, Ponni accounts for 40 per cent of the area covered by paddy. [However, Mr Ranganathan says, the share of Ponni may not be more than 25 per cent.]

According to the Statistical Hand Book of Tamil Nadu – 2013 published by the State Department of Economics and Statistics, paddy was raised on about 19 lakh hectares during 2011-2012, a good rainfall year.

The official adds that Ponni possesses the feature of being a fine variety only when it is grown in the Cauvery delta but it looks like a common variety when it is raised in areas such as Ramanathapuram. D. Thulasingam, president of the Federation of Tamil Nadu Rice Mill Owners and Wholesale Dealers Associations, says that apart from consumers, traders are for Ponni as the variety fetches a high price. In the wholesale market, it is sold at Rs. 50 a kg and when it comes to retail market, it costs around Rs. 54 a kg.

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