Anantnag, July 10: In a significant landmark towards the fragrant rice revolution in Kashmir, Mushkbudji Farmers Producers Organisation (FPO), has become the first in the Union territory to get the import-export license.
The FPO is being promoted in Sagam village of Kokernag in Anantnag under the NABARD PODF scheme.
The FPO aimed to promote the scented variety of rice and help its marketing and sale across the country were incorporated as Farmers Producers Company in July 2019.
“With FPO now having its own import and export license, the Mushk Budji farmers will now have access to global markets and this will fetch them a very good price, ” said Rouf Zargar, District Development Manager NABARD.
He said the corporate and bulk buyers are looking to do business with FPOs instead of individual farmers.
“Only the FPOs have the ability to trade the commodities in bulk as there are hundreds of farmers linked to an FPO with minimum interference from the middlemen,” Zargar said.
The Mushkbudji rice has also been listed among the 9 products of JK and Leh to get GI tagging.
The FPO has received focused attention from the Agriculture Department since its formation by way of benefits under the various FPO-specific schemes of the department.
The district administration is also in the process of allotting land to FPO for the establishment of a rice mill in the Sagam area.
The FPO currently has the membership of more than 200 Mushkbudji farmers, who sell the major portion of their produce directly through the FPO.
The FPO also participated in the recent Gulf Investment Summit in Srinagar and evinced the interest of various investors from UAE and other countries.
Around 2000 farmers are cultivating the aromatic rice in Tangpawa –Sagam village of Anantnag alone on approximately 5000 Kanals of land.
However, they have been battling with marketing challenges.
With the aromatic variety now getting an import–export license they expect to overcome those challenges.
“ It really is great news for the farming community as it is likely to help in boosting the production of Mushkubudji,” said Parvez Ahmed Khanday, 50 of Sagam.
“The higher prices of aromatic rice limit its consumption to special occasions like weddings and festivals. But now we hope that we are able to take this precious variety to national and international markets,” said another farmer Abdul Rashid.
Initially, the agriculture department itself procured the crop, providing farmers with significant benefits.
However, later after the government stopped procuring the variety it forced farmers to rely on private buyers, making them vulnerable to exploitation.
Furthermore, the fragrant quality of milled rice diminishes over time, making storage challenging.
In 2007, the government announced a revival programme of the Mushkubuji rice variety in Sagam village of Kokernag
This precious and aromatic variety had fallen out of cultivation in the 1970s due to blast disease..
But with support from the agriculture department and SKAUST (K) the unique suitability of Sagam’s climate and cold water, the stage was set for resurgence.
Drawn by its unique qualities and the prospect of higher revenues, more and more farmers started cultivating this fragrant variety on their lands.
Recognising the transformative potential of Sagam-Tangpawa, the government declared it a model village for Mushkibudji rice in 2017.
To support this initiative, a substantial sum of Rs 1 crore was allocated for procurement and marketing efforts, bolstering the confidence of farmers and positioning Sagam-Tangpawa as a beacon of success.
The cultivation of crops was later extended to a few more villages of Kokernag in Anantnag- Soaf Shali, Panzgam and also some villages in Baderwah, Budgam and Baramula.
It generated massive revenue for farmers who slowly started switching to this alternative farming.
In 2020, 6000 quintals were produced, followed by 5400 quintals in 2021.
The year 2022 witnessed a further increase to 6,090 quintals.
Anantnag district alone accounted for 6000 quintals of production last year. Encouraged by this success, the cultivation of Muskbudji rice will also expand to Kulgam and Kupwara districts.
In 2020, 244 hectares were under Mushkibudji cultivation, which increased to 248 hectares in 2021 and further expanded to 280 hectares in 2022.
This expansion shows an increasing interest among farmers in embracing the aromatic variety.
With a long-term vision in mind, the proposed plan for the next five years aims to expand Mushkibudji rice cultivation in Kashmir to encompass 999 hectares of land