Pusa Basmati Rice

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What’s in Today’s Article?

  • Why in News?
  • Basmati Crop Improvement Program
  • Characteristics of Basmati Rice Varieties Developed at IARI
  • Registration of Pusa Basmati Rice in India
  • Illegal Cultivation of Pusa Basmati Rice in Pakistan
  • How are these “Protected” Varieties being Grown in Pakistan?

Why in News?

Even as the country's basmati rice exports are expected to reach new highs, scientists at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) have warned of the "illegal" production of its blockbuster varieties in Pakistan.

According to IARI, the illicit seed sales and cultivation of IARI varieties in Pakistan started with Pusa Basmati-1121 (PB-1121).

Basmati Crop Improvement Program

  • Basmati rice is known for its unique grain and cooking quality characters and pleasing aroma.
  • However, the traditional Basmati rice varieties were long duration, and IARI has been instrumental in genetic improvement of Basmati rice.
  • This led to the release of the first semi-dwarf, photo-insensitive high yielding Basmati rice variety, Pusa Basmati 1 in 1989.
  • Consequently, IARI has released a number of high yielding Basmati/aromatic rice varieties and hybrids (Pusa Basmati 1121, Improved Pusa Basmati 1, etc.).
  • This reduced the duration of traditional Basmati rice varieties from 160 days to 120 days with enhancement of productivity from 2.5 tons/ha to 6-8 tons/ha.
  • As a result, these high-yielding basmati varieties account for roughly 90% of India’s projected $5.5 billion exports of the aromatic rice in 2023-24 (April-March), leading to the foreign exchange earnings for India.

Characteristics of Basmati Rice Varieties Developed at IARI

  • Pusa Basmati 1121 - World’s longest Basmati rice: It was released as Pusa 1121 (Pusa Sugandh 4) in 2003 and subsequently notified as Pusa Basmati 1121 in 2008.
    • It has seed to seed maturity of 145 days with an average yield of 45 q/ha.
  • Pusa Basmati 1509: Developed from the cross Pusa 1121 x Pusa 1301, this variety overcomes all major weaknesses of Pusa Basmati 1121.
    • It matures in 115 days with an average yield of 5 tons/ ha.
  • Improved Pusa Basmati 1 (Pusa 1460) - First product of molecular breeding in rice in India: Pusa 1460 is an improved version of Pusa Basmati 1 with resistance to bacterial leaf blight.
  • Pusa Basmati 6 (Pusa 1401) - Superior grain quality: It is an improvement over Pusa 1121 in its yielding ability, agronomy and cooking quality.
  • Pusa RH10 - The world’s first superfine grain aromatic rice hybrid: It was released in 2001 for commercial cultivation in the irrigated eco-systems of Haryana, Delhi and Uttaranchal.

Registration of Pusa Basmati Rice in India

  • All the varieties bred are notified under the Seeds Act 1966 for cultivation in the officially demarcated Geographical Indication (GI) area of basmati rice within India, covering 7 northern states.
  • They are further registered under the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act 2001.
    • This Act allows only Indian farmers to sow, save, re-sow, exchange or share the seeds of any protected/registered varieties.

Illegal Cultivation of Pusa Basmati Rice in Pakistan

  • The Pusa Basmati 1121 variety has been officially registered as ‘PK 1121 Aromatic’ in Pakistan and marketed as ‘1121 Kainat’ basmati.
  • Pakistan is growing other popular IARI-bred varieties too, such as Pusa Basmati-6 (PB-6) and PB-1509 (registered and renamed as ‘Kissan Basmati’ in Pakistan) released in 2010 and 2013 respectively.
  • More striking are YouTube videos from Pakistan featuring newer IARI varieties: Pusa Basmati-1847 (PB-1847), PB-1885 and PB-1886, all the three varieties were released in late-2021.
    • These are improved versions of PB-1509, PB-1121 and PB-6 respectively, bred for conferring resistance to bacterial blight and rice blast fungal disease.
  • Pakistan’s basmati exports in 2021-22 was 7.58 lt ($694.55 million) and 5.95 lt ($650.42 million) in 2022-23 (July-June).
  • The Pakistani rupee’s depreciation has enabled the country to export its Super Kernel basmati brown rice to the European Union and United Kingdom at $825-875 per tonne.
    • The comparable PB-1 brown rice from India is being shipped out at $1,000-1,075/tonne.
    • Even for white basmati rice with 2% broken grains, Pakistan’s export prices are currently lower ($1,005) vis-à-vis India’s ($1,180).

How are these “Protected” Varieties being Grown in Pakistan?

  • The answer is simple: It takes just 5 kg of seeds to plant an acre of PB-1847. That acre, in turn, will yield 2,800-odd kg of grain within four months.
  • Even after factoring in 10% processing loss, 2,500 kg-plus of this grain is now re-usable as seed for further multiplication.
  • The Pakistani seed firms, thus, needed to procure a few kg of the PB-1847 and PB-1885 grains – from fields across the border or even wholesale mandis in Punjab or Haryana – for multiplying and selling within two years of release in India.

Q1) Why is the geographical indication (GI) important?

GIs enhance the reputation and value of local products and support local businesses. All producers operating in a geographical area covered by a GI and that comply with the GI's standards of production can benefit from a registered GI.

Q2) What is the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act 2001?

The Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act 2001 provides for the establishment of an effective system for protection of plant varieties, the rights of farmers and plant breeders and to encourage the development of new varieties of plants.