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Ludhiana: Watermelon growers hit hard by high seed prices

The state agriculture department has no control over the seed prices of private companies, which enjoy monopoly in hybrid seed sale

Written by Divya Goyal | Ludhiana |
March 10, 2017 4:50:35 am
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ALREADY FACING a potato glut, farmers in Punjab have been hit further by skyrocketing prices of hybrid seeds of watermelons and muskmelons. Before the onset of the paddy season, farmers in some pockets of Punjab prefer growing watermelon and muskmelon from March to May. With the state-owned Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) not producing any hybrid seeds of watermelons, the farmers are solely dependent on private companies, which are selling seeds ranging from Rs 20,000 per kg to Rs 70,000 per kg depending on the variety. Even the seeds of PAU’s non-hybrid watermelon variety, Sugar Baby, are not available for sale at its seed shop on the university campus. When The Indian Express visited the PAU seed shop to buy the watermelon seed, the staff deployed at the shop said, “Seeds are currently unavailable”, although the sowing season has already begun.

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The state agriculture department has no control over the seed prices of private companies, which enjoy monopoly in hybrid seed sale. Speaking to The Indian Express, Maheshinder Singh, a potato farmer who has started cultivation of watermelon this season after suffering losses in potato crop, said, “I have purchased the hybrid watermelon seed for Rs 50,000/kg manufactured by a Bengaluru-based company. The government is not taking any step to check how private companies are looting farmers in selling hybrid seeds. After potato glut, I decided to sow watermelon before paddy to tide over the potato loss to some extent but even melon seeds are so expensive.”

Watermelon is mostly grown in the Doaba belt of the state with Kapurthala, Nakodar, Shahkot, Jalandhar pockets being dotted with most of the farms. Some pockets are also there in Ludhiana, Fatehgarh Sahib and villages near Sutlej banks. With warm weather required for watermelon cultivation coming early in southern parts of the country, the fruit from Karnataka and other southern states also enter the markets of Punjab before farmers here can harvest.

“Watermelons from Bengaluru and Chennai are already available at shops in Punjab. In fact, they are available round the year now. So, farmers in Punjab are losing interest in watermelons. Seeds are too expensive and then, at mandis, non-hybrid varieties fetch Rs 5 per kg or even less only in peak summers,” said Gurpreet Singh, another farmer from Amloh. The hybrid varieties still fetch Rs 50-15/kg for farmers at mandis, Rs 15 being the closing rate at the end of the season. Dilbag Singh, senior scientist, PAU vegetable department, said, “PAU is working to develop hybrid variety seeds but it will still take a few years for seeds to reach farmers. Our non-hybrid variety Sugar Baby seeds cost Rs 300-400 per kg only. Since private companies have monopoly on hybrid as of now, their prices are skyrocketing.”

 

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