Jan 13, 2013

Rabobank promotes hybrid rice. Aimed at helping Monsanto, Syngenta, Pioneer, Dow Agro Science and Bayer Crop Science sell more seed.

For years, farmers have been complaining. "You tell us to keep domestic breeds. But banks only provide me credit if I purchase a crossbred cow," farmers would tell me at many a places. If you have wondered why farmers did not fancy desi breeds of cows, this is one of the major reasons. I have raised this at various platforms, and am still not sure whether banks have rectified  their flawed policy to provide credit only for 'improved' technology.

This malice has gone on and on. In fact, in lot many way I find the banks are primarily responsible for the prevailing agrarian crisis. They have always supported the industrial-driven farming systems and thereby knowingly led agriculture on the path to disaster. One reason perhaps is that the agriculture staff in banks is stuffed with people who have little exposure to the ground realities. They literally go by text books, and have drawn development policies in consultation with firms like Ernst&Young, Tata Consultancy Services, among others. One can cite a number of examples, but then let's keep that to another day.

The situation has worsened after the private banks got foothold in the Indian market. The latest is Rabobank. The bank has done a study wherein it calls for investing in hybrid seeds to increase rice production by some 15-20 per cent (Hybrid seeds will help raise rice productivity: Study. Business Standard, Jan 9, 2013. http://bit.ly/TJbtBH). At present, hybrid rice seed is cultivated in only 3 per cent of the total area, and since seed giants like Bayer Crop Sciences, Dow Agro Sciences, Pioneer, Monsanto and Syngenta's commercial interests are involved, how can Rabobank not make promotional bid?

It is primarily for the same reason that Ministry of Agriculture is also aggressively promoting hybrid rice seeds through the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna. Subsidies are being provided for hybrid seed purchase. Interestingly, while the RKVY objective is to increase production, the State which produces the largest rice surplus -- Punjab -- is launching a crop diversification programme planning to take out 12 lakh hecatres from rice cultivation and shift to other crops. At the same time, India is saddled with huge rice stocks and  is therefore reluctant to procure more rice. It is thinking of capping food procurement to limit the burden on the Food Corporation of India.

Under such conditions, why do we need to raise production by 15-20 per cent? Well, you guessed it right. Because it will help seed multinationals to market more seed. This in turn will raise their stock value. Since hybrid seeds have to be purchased every year, look at the huge market available. Punjab is also worried about depleting groundwater from excess pumping out of water for rice cultivation. Rabobank should have known that hybrid seeds pull out at least 1.5 times more water than the high-yielding varieties (HYV). This in turn will require more fertilisers and pesticides thereby adding on to the send-generation environmental impacts and also fan global warming. But the bigger question is when will the policy makers hold banks accountable if their policies acerbate the agrarian crisis? Isn't it time to hold social and environmental audit of bank policies and approaches?

The answer is: Only when people like you and me raise their voice.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

It'll happen only then when we stop voting based on parties and start voting based on the person!

Anonymous said...

I would like to share an interesting story. A retired bank officer
from Tamilnadu had collected traditional paddy seeds from our( CREATE
) seed bank in Adirengam.village. This was established as part of the
save our rice campaign.

This bank officer bought some land after retirement and is a full time
agriculturist. He sowed traditional seeds and HYVs in his land last
year. TN experienced one of the worst drought last year. But what
happened? He told Jayaraman that the traditional varieties survived
drought and gave good yield while HYVs failed totally. Media reported
this . He says that he felt all the happiness in his life when he saw
this and also shared that he has not felt similarly all through his
carrier . He is a graduate in agriculture !

We are planning to meet him next week

Usha

Anonymous said...

I have a little bit of different opinion that when i interacted with dealers and distributors in Punjab who were involved in the selling of hybrid rice said that "people who buy hybrid rice are those whose fields are not very much rich in water supply and also again in Gujarat i felt the same story where the hybrid rice was popular among the tribal people in Kheda district and surrounding area. These tribal people apply less water and dont have much credit to apply pesticides and fertilizers so they prefer hybrid rice". Can you provide some numerical data related to the water consumption and other input consumption w.r.t hybrid rice and HYV.

Anonymous said...

I also Feel aligned with above comment.I have seen and interacted with many dealers/farmers using hybrid rice.
It takes less water than traditional varities. Surviving in the drough by traditional varities would be a genetic character(usually present in wild varities similar to weeds), but facts needs to be confirmed.
As far as application of pesticide/fertilizer is concerned, yes!!judicious use is required. some pockets of india are virgin in pesticide use but some are very high usage.
So, instead of cursing pesticides/fertilizer companies, awareness among farmer should be promoted, which is entirely absent from government side and we so called intellectual class and self proclaimed custodian of Agriculture system do only cursing each other.!!!

Anonymous said...

For the above two people who have commented that hybrid rice varieties consume less water, please refer to our finance minister - Mr.P.Chidambaram's budget speech. "“The original Green Revolution States face the problem of stagnating yields and over-exploitation of water resources. The answer lies in crop diversification,” Chidambaram said. This article can be found in the below URL http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/industry-and-economy/agri-biz/tapping-the-east-to-spread-green-revolution/article4462751.ece

What this means is that the Hybrid rice that was introduced in Punjab has failed to add any more productivity due to huge water consumption and destruction of soil ecosystem/fertility due to fertilizers. Now this is being pushed to virgin lands of the eastern states. I will leave it up to the informed readers of this blog to make their own intelligent inferences