Jun 18, 2010

Spurious hybrid seeds flood the Indian market. No problem, the GDP goes up.

A few weeks back I was travelling in the Nimad region of Madhya Pradesh in central India. Nimad derives its name from the neem tree. As the region's name suggests, neem is the dominant tree in this area. What however strikes you is multiplicity of Bt cotton posters that adorns every wall, standing tree, buses etc. You see them everywhere.

I counted some 20 different brands of Bt cotton seed posters and banners. To name a few: Super Mallika, Atal, Jai Bt, Ankur 3028, Ganesh, Gabbar, Mallika Gold, Superman, Jaadu Bt cotton, and Obama. I wonder how the farmer makes the right kind of choice, of which seed brand to pick up. How many of them end up being duped, your guess is as good as mine.

Hybrid seed is a lucrative market. There was a time when close to 2,000 brands of hybrid seeds of cotton were being sold in Andhra Pradesh. Interestingly, at least one of the parents in most of these hybrids was common. I wonder how could so many different kinds of hybrids (and all with higher productivity) could be developed with one parent being common. In other words, most of these popular brands were nothing but duplicates being sold under different names.

So if there was a brand of hybrid cotton seed named Laxmi someone brought another brand called Super Laxmi. I admire farmer's sixth sense (if any) in selecting the more genuine ones from hundred of brands flooding the market.

The menace of multiple brands of hybrid seeds has now spread to the northern parts of the country. Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab are now faced with this problem. In all these States, hybrid seeds have flooded the market, mostly from Andhra Pradesh. Whether it is vegetable (which in any case is dominated by hybrids, with the UP, Haryana and Punjab governments providing subsidy on its cultivation), cotton or rice, what is being increasingly available in the market are only hybrid seeds.

In UP, a Lucknow datelined report in Dainik Jagran says the four main agricultural universities were provided with Rs 53 crore from the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna to develop locally adaptable hybrid seeds. But none of these universities have undertaken any such research project. So where has the Rs 53-crore (or Rs 530 million) allocated for the purpose disappeared, please don't ask me. The average market price for hybrid seed that is available is Rs 200 per kg. Farmers have little choice but to go by the recommendation of the shop keepers.

Quoting a State government report, the newspaper says that between 2006 and 2009, 40 private seed companies had made available 102 different kinds/brands of hybrid seeds to the agricultural universities for evaluation. Only 14 of these were made available for research in the second year of cultivation (since hybrids lose their hybrid vigour in the 2nd generation). It means that the hybrid seed sector is dominated by fly-by-night operators who make money from one year's sale, and than disappear probably to appear again with a new brand.

Not even one seed sample was drawn and sent for testing in any of the laboratories in UP.

That makes me wonder whether the kind of intense deliberations and engagement that a few of us (and that includes farmer organisations and NGOs) are involved in over the proposed Seed Bill will make any practical difference to the existing market realities? Is the Ministry of Agriculture even aware of the hanky-panky that goes unchecked in the name of improved seeds? And even if they are aware, do they care?

What is therefore urgently needed is a strict penalty clause with heavy penalties (and prison terms) in the proposed Seed Bill. Unless some of the seed manufacturers are hauled up and given exemplary punishment, seed will remain a flourishing business for all kinds of operators.

Well, knowing what the Prime Minister said: "Bhopal's will happen, but the country has to progress," and that sends a message down the line. You should be prepared not to expect any meaningful change. After all, the more the seed packets are sold, the more it adds to the GDP calculations. Who cares for the aam kisan?


Ramesh Dubey said...

आदरणीय देवेंद्र जी बाजार की खेती के बढ़ते आधिपत्‍य के दौर में बहुराष्‍ट्रीय कंपनियों के बीजों से बाजार का भरा रहना स्‍वाभाविक ही है । जब रेडिमेड हाइब्रिड बीज मिल रहे हों तो कृषि विश्‍वविद्यालय भला देसी बीजों के हाइब्रिड बीज क्‍यों तैयार करेंगे ? ये विश्‍वविद्यालय तो अब बहुराष्‍ट्रीय बीज कंपनियों के आउटसोर्सिंग केंद्र बनते जा रहे हैं । यहां उन्‍हीं फसलों पर शोध हो रहे हैं जिनकी जरूरत बहुराष्‍ट्रीय एग्रीबिजनेस कंपनियों को है । इन्‍हें गरीबों का पेट भरने से अधिक अपना जेब भरने की चिंता है । फिर बहुराष्‍ट्रीय कंपनियां ऐसे बीज क्‍यों विकसित करेंगी जो किसानों द्वारा बार-बार प्रयुक्‍त हो ? आखिर उन्‍हें अपना मुनाफा बढ़ाने के साथ-साथ विकासशील देशों के कृषि विश्‍वविद्यालयों को आउटसोर्सिंग केंद्र के रूप में भी तो विकसित करना है । यह काम मुफ्त में थोड़ी होगा । रही बात बीज विधेयक में कठोर सजा का प्रावधान करने की तो वह दूर की कौड़ी है क्‍योंकि उंची विकास दर हासिल करने के लिए एग्रीबिजनेस कंपनियों और अमेरिका का साथ भी तो जरूरी है ।

रमेश दुबे

Anonymous said...

I think one of the way forward is what Kerala does for farmers. One of the agency of the agriculture department( VFPCK) gets the breeder seeds from the University and give it to selected small and marginal farmers. VFPCK purchase the fruits from farmers at a higher cost. This was started some years back and govt and farmers have realised that this is a good way of asuring good qualiy seed at a low price to the farmers. It covers 50% of the demand for vegetable seeds in the state. Since the quality is assured govt does not need any advertisement .


Anonymous said...

I think Kerala model as cited by Ms Usa is very correct to fight with these MNCs