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Availability of quality seeds a concern for soybean farmers in Maharashtra

In many cases, instead of selling their produce to seed manufacturers, farmers have sold them in the open market. Many private seed companies have also curtailed operations due to the legal hassles they faced last year.

Written by Partha Sarathi Biswas | Pune |
Updated: May 30, 2021 8:54:18 am
Availability of quality seeds a concern for soybean farmersBeing an open pollination variety (OPV), soybean seeds can be reused by farmers for their next crop. Companies tie up with farmers to procure superior quality seeds, which they process, treat and bag for selling. (Express File)

With Kharif season all set to kick off, availability of quality soybean seeds has become a cause for concern for farmers in Maharashtra.

Farmers in Madhya Pradesh — the largest seed-producing state in India— have reported rain damage to their crop last year, which can lead to a tight situation in terms of seed supply in other parts of the country. Besides, due to the rain-induced damage, concerns are also being raised over quality of the seeds.

Being an open pollination variety (OPV), soybean seeds can be reused by farmers for their next crop. Companies tie up with farmers to procure superior quality seeds, which they process, treat and bag for selling.

The country requires 12-13 lakh tonne of soybean seeds every year. Majority of the seed manufacturing companies are based out of Madhya Pradesh and with Maharashtra farmers being their biggest purchaser, any damage in the crop in the central state affects the farmers here too.

Last year, farmers in Maharashtra had reported extensive germination failure in soybean seed, which had led them to go for resowing.

Multiple causes, including inferior seed quality, deep sowing and insufficient soil moisture, were cited as reasons for this failure. With 1.60 lakh farmers complaining about seed failure, the state agriculture department had terminated the license of 11 companies and filed 83 FIRs.

Soybean acreage is expected to see a steady growth as the oilseed has traded well this year, above its Minimum Support Price (MSP) of Rs 3,880/quintal.

The average trading price of soybean at Latur’s wholesale market was between Rs 6,000-6,500/quintal for most of the season. Farmers had staggered their sales in anticipation of better prices. Farmers are expected to increase their soybean area this year as well.

Maharashtra alone is expected to grow the oilseed over 43.50 lakh hectare for which 3.26 lakh tonne seed would be required.

Last Kharif season, the state agriculture department had encouraged farmers to save some of the seeds they grew. Farmers saved around 3 lakh tonne of seed for sowing this season but as prices increased, many took advantage of the higher prices and sold their stock.

Seed availability, industry insiders said, would be a bigger problem in Maharashtra than in Madhya Pradesh as farmers in the latter save seeds from previous years. Maharashtra farmers, on the other hand, prefer buying fresh seeds each year.

DN Pathak, executive director of Indore-based Soybean Processors Association, said the supply situation would be tight this year. “Farmers would prefer soybean over other crops given the better returns,” he said.

Seed producers in Maharashtra, meanwhile, said the state can see a serious shortage as both government and private sellers have reported lower production.

In many cases, instead of selling their produce to seed manufacturers, farmers have sold them in the open market. Many private seed companies have also curtailed operations due to the legal hassles they faced last year.

Sources from the Maharashtra seed industry say they fear an occurrence of last year’s germination problem as there are reports of spurious seeds being passed off as certified seed.

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