GI(Geographical Indicator) Tags

Basmati Rice Revolution: From Crop to Cuisine


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Basmati Rice

Mains level : Not Much


Central Idea

  • While scientific research often seems distant from practical outcomes, some less-celebrated success stories stand out.
  • One such triumph is the transformation of India’s basmati rice industry, driven by scientists at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) in New Delhi.

About Basmati Rice

  • Basmati rice is a fragrant, long-grain rice variety primarily cultivated in the Indian subcontinent.
  • It is native to the foothills of the Himalayas in India and Pakistan.
  • Basmati rice is characterized by its long, slender grains that elongate further when cooked.
  • Basmati rice is renowned for its natural aromatic fragrance, often described as nutty or floral.
  • There are different Basmati rice varieties, each with its unique characteristics. Some popular varieties include Basmati 370, Basmati 386, and Basmati 1121.
  • Basmati rice from certain regions, particularly Indian Basmati, has received Geographical Indication (GI) tags, indicating its specific geographical origin and quality.

[a] First Revolution

  • Traditional Basmati Varieties: Until the late 1980s, Indian farmers primarily cultivated traditional basmati varieties with tall plants prone to lodging, resulting in low yields and long cultivation periods.
  • Breakthrough with PB-1: In 1989, the IARI introduced Pusa Basmati-1 (PB-1), a crossbreed that combined traditional basmati grain attributes with high-yielding traits. PB-1 was more compact, sturdy, and offered improved yields and maturity times.

[b] The Second Revolution

  • PB-1121’s Quality: The real revolution came in 2003 with the release of Pusa Basmati-1121 (PB-1121), which offered a different advantage. While yielding slightly less, it boasted exceptional grain quality, with elongated kernels that expanded impressively upon cooking.
  • Market Impact: PB-1121’s grain quality allowed companies like KRBL Ltd. to create a lucrative export brand, making it a global favourite. This variety significantly contributed to India’s basmati rice exports.

[c] Third Revolution

  • PB-1509: In 2013, the IARI introduced Pusa Basmati-1509 (PB-1509), a high-yielding variety with a shorter maturity period. This innovation allowed farmers to cultivate an extra crop, enhancing their economic prospects.
  • Diverse Crop Combinations: PB-1509’s early maturity has enabled farmers to explore crop diversification, including potatoes, sunflowers, sweet corn, and onions, in addition to basmati rice.


Breeding for Disease Resistance

  • Protecting Gains: IARI scientists have recently focused on preserving yield gains by incorporating disease-resistant genes into their improved basmati varieties.
  • Marker-Assisted Selection: Genes for bacterial leaf blight and rice blast fungal disease resistance have been identified through marker-assisted selection techniques.
  • New Varieties: The release of Pusa Basmati-1885 and Pusa Basmati-1847 in 2021 marked the introduction of varieties with “in-built resistance” against these diseases, reducing the need for chemical crop protection.

Risk Factors

  • Market Dependency: Basmati rice lacks a minimum support price (MSP) and relies heavily on exports, with limited domestic consumption.
  • Market Vulnerability: Despite its profitability, basmati farming is exposed to market fluctuations and government export policies. Recent restrictions highlight this vulnerability, affecting basmati farmers.

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