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Opinion

Rajasthan Rice Farmers Look At Joe Biden With Hope, It’s About Iran

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Rice farmers in the Hadoti region of Rajasthan and some other parts of India are selling their quality basmati rice products at half the price of last year, as exports to the largest market, Iran, have fallen due to the United States trade sanctions against the Gulf state. About a third of the rice exported from India goes to Iran.

“I recently sold 20 quintals of quality Bundi rice at Rs 2000 per quintal. About three years ago, the price was 4000 rupees per quintal, ”said Manveer Singh Virk, a rice farmer from Surajmal Nagar in the Bundi district of Rajasthan.

Virk said that due to falling prices they cannot recoup the cost of Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 incurred per acre of crop. “Rice cultivation is not as profitable as it used to be,” he said.

Dashrath Kumar, general secretary of the Hadoti Farmers Union, said that rice produced in the Kota region is exported mainly due to its basmati aroma and the long, thin grain of rice. “The demand is high in Iran because of its taste and smell,” he said.

According to the Rajasthan department of agriculture, rice was grown on around 1.12 hectares of land in the Hadoti region this year and the estimated rice production would be around 4 lakh metric tons.

But farmers are not getting the best price for their harvest as exports to the Gulf and Iran have declined due to the strained relationship between the United States and Iran. “With the decline in rice exports from the Kota region due to the US sanctions against Iran, prices have dropped substantially,” said farmer leader Jagdish Kumar.

Kota Region Deputy Director of Agriculture Ramavtar Sharma agreed, saying that lower export demand has caused prices to fall.

According to the US State Department website, the US had imposed various economic sanctions against Iran since earlier this year over Tehran’s alleged support for terrorist groups. The sanctions are aimed at containing Iran’s nuclear program and as punishment for the alleged violation of human rights.

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The United States also asked countries not to buy crude oil from Iran. A large drop in international oil prices during the Covid-19 pandemic also severely affected the inflow of cash from Iran.

Rice exporter Neelesh Patel said that Iran was the main buyer of rice produced in the Hadoti region, but a decline in its purchasing power, due to the fall in crude prices during the Covid-19 pandemic and the US sanctions on its sale of oil, had led to this situation.

In 2019-20, India exported rice worth Rs 32,000 crore, of which around 10,800 crore was exported to Iran alone, according to an estimate by the All India Rice Exporters Association. Earlier this year, the association issued a notice to all its members asking them to be cautious and not send shipments of rice to Iran until the situation improves.

“Quotas worth Rs 800 million to large Indian exporters are still pending with Iranian companies. We did not receive payment for exports last year and therefore traders are not willing to export rice on credit, ”said Patel.

Chauthmal Nagar, a board member of the Kota University of Agriculture, blamed the confrontation between the United States and Iran and the low demand for high-quality rice in the Gulf countries due to Covid-19 as the main reasons why Hadoti rice has a low price.

However, rice farmers and traders in the region believe that the situation may change with Joe Biden taking over as President of the United States in place of Donald Trump in January 2021.

Dashrath Kumar said that now, with the election of Joe Biden as the new president of the United States, rice farmers are hopeful that rice exports will resume soon. He added that farmers’ organizations in the Hadoti region have been calling on the central government to solve rice export problems, claiming that it alone can help get the right price for farmers in the domestic market.

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