Maharashtra agriculture commissionerate has terminated licences of 11 companies for their alleged role in supplying inferior quality soyabean seeds to farmers this kharif season. The orders were issued in regards with complaints of germination failure reported by farmers from various parts of the state.
An early onset of monsoon had seen farmers in the state racing with their sowing activities. Farmers had sown soyabean on 43.23 lakh hectares as against 40.11 lakh hectares the year before. But soon after the sowing, reports started coming in of germination failure which propelled the farmers to go for resowing.
Usage of inferior quality of seeds, inadequate soil moisture and deep sowing were attributed as main reasons for the germination failure.
The Soybean Processors Association of India (SOPA) had estimated around 20 per cent of the fields had required resowing.
The case had assumed importance after the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court had taken up the matter suo motu and directed the state Agriculture department to speed up investigations.
The state government had started filing criminal FIRs against seed companies, before the Supreme Court stayed the HC order directing police to register FIRs against the seed manufacturers and vendors for cheating farmers by supplying seeds that lacked germination. Until then, 83 FIRs had been filed while 1.60 lakh farmers had lodged complaints of seed failure.
Although criminal FIRs were stopped, officers of the commissionerate have held hearings under the Seed Act and passed orders against the companies.
Till date around 77 hearings have taken place and 11 companies have had their licences suspended. Next week 40 more hearings are scheduled in the matter.
The action by the state government has rattled the seed industry, which controls over 70 per cent of the oilseed market. Many senior industry leaders cited wrong agricultural practices as the real reason for seed failure. “Targeting companies will send out a wrong message,” said a senior functionary of the industry.
The crux of the matter that had led to seed failure was the decision of the government to lower the germination rate from 70 per cent to 60 per cent to qualify as seeds. This was done as heavy rains had lashed the state during the harvest season. This year, seed manufacturers have pointed out how heavy rains in the production area threatens to repeat the last year’s problems.
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