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Punjab to brew beer from its own barley

Sarabjit Pandher

CHANDIGARH: The Punjab Agro Foodgrains Corporation Limited (PAFC) and United Breweries Limited (UBL) have introduced in the market a beer that would be brewed from barley grown by farmers in Punjab under the contract- farming programme launched by the State Government.

The first such batch of bottled beer under the "Kingfisher'' brand name was released here recently.

After the launch of Hyola oil, this the second project which the PAFC has claimed success for within a month's time. In 2002, PAFC and UBL had entered into an agreement to increase the crop area under malting barley in Punjab. In the first year of the contract, 1000 acres of barley were sown which increased to 5000 acres in 2004. Officials said that the actual area may be even higher because farmers tend to retain the seeds from the previous years' crop.

In a major breakthrough, the research team at UBL developed VJM 201 variety of barley which increased yield by approximately 17 per cent. It is claimed that the new variety was fairly resistant to diseases. Farmers now grow this "two-rowed variety'' of barley which is a medium tall, mid maturing and lodging resistant variety. It has uniform bold plump grains and has better malting properties.

According to Managing Director of the UBL, Kalyan Ganguly, "For the first time, we have been able to get malting barley of international standards. The previous variety, being essentially used as cattle feed, did not provide the required quality to brew good beer. In 2005, our target is to undertake contract farming of barley in 10,000 acres and further increase it to over 40,000 acres in the next three years.''

Commenting on the positives steps being taken, Managing Director of the umbrella organization, the Punjab Agro Industries, Himmat Singh, said that while the corporation would provide forward and backward linkages, farmers, industry and people of Punjab would be the major beneficiaries. According to Managing Director of the PAFC, which is a subsidiary of Punjab Agro Industries, Kripa Shankar Saroj, the success of the new crop and marketing of the brewed beer would result in breaking the wheat-paddy cropping system in the State. Barley, which is a short duration crop and requires less water and fertilizer than wheat, fits in the requirement very well as an alternate Rabi crop. Growing barley in place of wheat also enables the farmers to cultivate a third crop like ''moong'' in rotation with barley and paddy.

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