Revival of seed rights- a win over corporate seed violence


Friday, April 8th, 2011
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The seed supply system in general and rice seed supply system in particular is one of the most important factors of agricultural development. This has a great bearing on the food security of Bangladesh’s 16 million inhabitants.

 

There are still huge gaps between the demand for and supply of rice seed in Bangladesh.

 

The Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC), which is the sole public sector producer, supplies only 5-6% of rice seeds needed against an annual demand of 1.2 million tonnes.

 

Another 14-15% is met by the private sector, often through imported seed (much of it from China), by a number of corporations like Syngenta, Supreme Seeds, ACI and NGOs like BRAC.

 

Most seeds imported by corporations and NGOs are hybrids which necessitate high inputs of water, fertilizer and pesticides.

 

Due to the genetic properties of hybrids the seeds from crops produced by them are not good for use by farmers to grow another generation.

 

The informal system (farmer’s own seed and farmer to farmer exchange of seed) provides more that 90 percent of the rice seed used in Bangladesh.

 

These seeds are often of very poor quality because continuous saving from previous harvests leads to genetic deterioration. Additional problems are inappropriate methods used for the production, harvesting, processing and preservation of seed.

 

It is estimated that quality seed could contribute to the production of an additional 2.1 million tonnes of rice annually (worth 420 Million USD), thus reducing food grain imports, saving foreign currency, and contributing to national self-sufficiency.

 

According to the farmers, the private seed dealers contracted to sell seed for the BADC, corporations and NGOs, deliberately restrict the supply of seed in the sowing season every year in order to drive up the price of seed.

 

To resolve the problem the Farmers’ Alliance of Ulipur union in Kurigram district decided to produce, process and market seeds of their own.

 

Accordingly the Foshol project arranged for training on seed production technology, facilitated linkage with the source of Breeder seed (the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute -BRRI), and mediated relations between the seed producers and the national Seed Certification Agency (SCA).

 

With the active support of the Union Farmers’ Alliance, member farmers produced of high quality foundation rice seed of their own and leased land. These seeds were sold to the union Farmers’ Alliance at 15 Taka4 per kg.

 

It was found that the beneficiaries trained as seed traders did not have adequate funds to buy foundation seed from the union Farmers Alliance. They were therefore given the opportunity to act only as selling agents and earn a commission.

 

The union Farmers’ Alliance was made accountable though signing a contract with the central Farmers’ Alliance for collecting money, supervision & distribution of seeds, monitoring the selling activities and establishing a liaison between traders and buyers (farmers who need seed to grow rice).

 

A commission system was used to encourage it to extend these services on time. The union Farmers’ Alliance signed contracts with each individual trader to ensure money paid by farmers for seed was transferred to it.

 

The demand for seed internal to Foshol enrolled farmers is 300 tons per year. If the Farmers’ Alliance can meet the demand of its members alone, the net profit from the seed business will be around 6 Million Taka per year.

 

In the 2009 rice production session 30, 000 kg of seed was produced and marketed: 30,000 * 40 Taka/kg sale price = 1.2 Million Taka in first operational year. The production of certified seed target is 50, 000 kg next year. At the usual market price (72.5 Taka/kg not the 40 Taka/kg sale price of the Foshol seed) this would be worth 2.175 Million Taka.

 

Foshol seed is thus significantly cheaper for rice farmers to buy than the usual market price whilst being of verifiably high quality (as certified by the SCA): Indeed, foundation seed’s genetic purity means that it has a better resistance to pests and diseases, and produces much more rice per acre than non certified seed.

 

The Foshol seed farmers also earn more per acre for producing rice seed than from normal paddy production, and AA Bangladesh’s project has thus contributed to their livelihood security.

 

Now they have own brand (Foshol Seed), marketing at reasonable prices that created income chain for a huge number of farmers on one hand and on the other hand has contribute increased production of poor peasant through accessing quality seed at reasonable price and on time. Government department is being influenced to support them and moving for wider coordination of seed business by the corporate house to ensure fair trade, after success of farmer’s seed drive.

 

END/UNB/MK/ssk/1517hrs

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