The government should beef up monitoring to curb sales of adulterated vegetable seeds, promote research and ensure that farmers have access to high quality seeds, analysts said yesterday.
“We have to stop adulteration. If we just can strengthen monitoring, many of the challenges facing the sector will go,” said Anwar Faruque, a former secretary of the agriculture ministry.
He said the use of unauthorised seeds has gone down owing to high quality of seeds being produced locally. The labels of the packages should be easily readable for the farmers.
The public and private sectors can join hands to improve quality of seeds, said Faruque who recently retired from the government job.
“The government is very liberal in this area.”
Echoing Faruque, Sudhir Chandra Nath, head of seed business at Brac, said there is a need to strengthen monitoring to eliminate the sales of substandard seeds.
“If we can give good seeds to farmers, farm productivity will ultimately rise.”
The analysts spoke at a roundtable on “quality vegetable seed production and certification” at The Daily Star Centre in Dhaka.
Katalyst, a market development project implemented in Bangladesh by Swisscontact and the commerce ministry, The Daily Star and Society for Media and Suitable Human Communication Techniques (SoMaSHTe) organised the programme.
Bangladesh over the last decade has seen significant improvement in vegetable production.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, Bangladesh is the third largest vegetable producer in the world, and the largest in Asia.
There are more than 60 types of vegetables and about 300 varieties cultivated in the country, said Md Abu Sayem, regional farm broadcasting officer of the Agriculture Information Service, in a presentation.
He said: “Seeds play the most important role for sustainable crop production. Only quality seeds can increase 15-20 percent yield potentiality. This is true for all crops including vegetables.”
According to Bangladesh Agricul-tural Research Institute (BARI), vegetable consumption increased 71 percent since 1994, from 42 gram per capita per day to 70gm in 2014. The annual production in 2014-15 was 142.37 million tonnes. The public sector produced 4 percent of 2,854 tonnes vegetable seed the country required in 2014-15, while the private sector companies supplied more than 66 percent of the requirement. The import stood at 582 tonnes, according to the figures provided by Sayem.
Citing a study, he said a good number of farmers are satisfied with the seeds of renowned companies. But many of the farmers did not get the promised yields that were written in the packets. “In most cases farmers incurred losses when they purchased seeds from unauthorised vendors.”
Ferdousi Begum, a plant biotechnologist, said the government should go for public private partnership arrangement and involve private companies to produce seeds.
She said monitoring has to be beefed up. Otherwise, imported seeds will flood the markets. Md Nazrul Islam, a professor at Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University in Dhaka, said crop insurance has to be introduced.
Afzal Husain, senior general manager of Metal Agro Ltd, said farmers have to know the timing when a particular seed will give maximum output. He also said some farmers sow seeds ahead of the season to make higher profits. In those cases, the farm output is not of good quality even if they use good seeds.
Md Abdus Sattar, executive coordinator of Partex Agro Ltd, said Bangladesh cannot produce all seeds because weather is not conducive to growing many varieties.
“Still, we can try to grow as much as possible.”
Jiban Krishna Biswas, director general of BARI, addressed the case where good quality seeds have yielded low quality of crops. For a good crop, high quality seed is one factor. But there are other factors as well, he said.
M Tauhidur Rahman, principal scientific officer of BARI, called for the preservation of seeds stemming from researches. “We have to preserve the variety.”
Mahbub Anam, managing director of Lal Teer Seed Ltd, said emphasis has to be given on research.
FR Malik, general secretary of Bangladesh Seed Association, said the country can increase its vegetable export if good seeds are used to cultivate the items.
Sunil Chandra Dhar, a director of the Department of Agricultural Extension, and Md Azim Uddin, chief seed technologist of the agriculture ministry, also spoke, while Reaz Ahmad, assignment editor of The Daily Star, moderated the discussion.
Source: The Daily Star, 13 March 2016, meeting notes