Anantnag: As Mushkibuji, a fragrant rice variety, grown in Sagam village of south Kashmir’s Anantnag district received the Geographical Indication (GI) Tag, the farmers associated with its cultivation are ecstatic.
The tag was granted to this product on Tuesday after a long legal process.
Talking to Greater Kashmir, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Farmers Producers Organisation (FPO) said, “It really is great news for the farming community as it is likely to help in boosting the production of Mushkubudji.”
Ahmad, a postgraduate and a native farmer of Sagam, has been cultivating Mushkibuji on 9 kanal of his agriculture land.
“Packaging and marketing were the major challenges we were confronting. The counterfeit variety was being sold in the market ruining our reputation. But now with GI tagging this will stop,” he said.
The other farmers Greater Kashmir spoke to were also jubilant.
“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 Haji Abdul Qadir, another farmer and a member of FPO.
He said that the scented variety was presently sold at Rs 20,000 per quintal and now the rates are expected to go up.
“It is most likely that more and more farmers would switch over to its cultivation, boosting the production,” Qadir said.
He said that the customers would also not now be reluctant to purchase the variety as they would be sure that they are getting the original product.
Experts opine that the GI tag would not only help the product to reach the international market but also preserve its Intellectual Property Rights.
District Development Manager NABARD, Rouf Zargar told Greater Kashmir that with the product now getting the GI tag, the intellectual property rights and geo-specific character of this niche crop produced in Sagam would be protected.
He said that it would also be a deterrent to the institutes in developing counterfeit varieties with the same fragrance.
“No person can copy it from beyond their geographical areas and now the FPO can even take legal action against the offenders,” Zragar said.
Chief Agriculture Officer Anantnag, Ajaz Hussain Dar said that the Mushkubudji farmers would now have access to global markets and this would fetch them a very good price.
“After GI tagging only an authorised user has the exclusive rights to use the GI in relation to these products,” Dar said.
Last month NABARD promoted Mushkbudji Farmers Producers Organisation (FPO) with more than 500 members, becoming the first in J&K to get the import-export license.
The FPO aimed to promote the scented variety of rice and help its marketing and sale across the country was incorporated as Farmers Producers Company in July 2019.
Around 2000 farmers are cultivating the aromatic rice in Tangpawa, Sagam village of Anantnag on approximately 5000 kanal land.
The fragrant quality of milled rice diminishes over time, making storage challenging and the district administration is now in process of establishing a rice mill unit in Kokernag area.
The variety is specially served to the groom and his companions (Baraties) at brides place alongside Kashmiri Wazwan, a multi-course traditional cuisine mostly comprising mutton delicacies.
In 2007, the government announced a revival programme of Mushkubuji rice varieties in Sagam village of Kokernag.
This precious and aromatic variety had fallen out of cultivation in the 1970s due to blast disease.
But with the support from the Agriculture Department and Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, Kashmir (SKUAST-K), the unique suitability of Sagam’s climate and cold water, the stage was set for its 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.