Lag in certified seed demand
THE use of certified quality seed is not picking up fast in Sindh. Of the 25 seed processing units proposed to be set up by the provincial government — at least one in each district on cost sharing basis with farmers — only eight have been established.
While the productivity of certified seed is stated to be 15 to 20 per cent more per acre as compared to uncertified variety, farmers, however, generally preserve their own crop’s seed for sowing.
Public and private sector seed companies partially meet farmers’ demand for certified quality seed. Sindh Seed Corporation produces 20 per cent of requirement of total seed in the province.
Many farmers avoid using certified seed due to its cost although they agree consistent use of one seed obtained from farm crop sheds productivity. They have to bear transportation cost as offices of private seed companies or SSC are located in big cities.
Instead, many rely on private dealers to buy seed.
SSC has been revived only in recent years after it was marred by poor administration, losses and other irregularities. SSC intends to provide around 2000 maunds of certified BT cotton seed to farmers during forthcoming Kharif season. It produces around 100,000 maunds of seed of major crops like wheat, cotton and paddy. The farmers are advised by SSC to use certified seed to avoid mixture and adulterated seed for better per acre yield.
Responding to a query, SSC Managing Director Shafiq Mahesar said of the seven BT cotton varieties tested, only two showed satisfactory result while the remaining five did not even show germination. “We had approved all these seven BT cotton varieties last year but when we tested them at SSC farms only IR901 and 3701 showed satisfactory results. In upcoming Provincial Seed Council (PSC) meeting, approval accorded to those five varieties will be reviewed or withdrawn accordingly,” he says.
Under a scheme, initiated in 2009-10, for ‘ Quality Seed Production in Sindh’, seed processing unit were to be set up in each district of the province. The cost was to be shared between the provincial government (70 per cent) and farmers (30 per cent).
The seed unit was to be established on farmer’s land with the government providing machinery and equipment for seed processing. At the time of establishment of the processing unit, farmers were to be provided seed and fertiliser by research department and at the time of harvest, the seed was to be purchased by the department with premium.
The scheme is being executed by research wing of Sindh agriculture department. As it did not get desired response, the government has extended it for another two years.
According to Director General Agriculture Research, Atta Soomro, apparently farmers have to acquire National Tax Number (NTN) (which makes farmers liable to pay tax) for setting up processing units, which serves as a deterrent. This is why, he says, only eight units have been set up.
Farmers say they are not inclined to get seed from SSC or go into certification process, since they find it cumbersome. If farmers want to preserve SSC’s seed obtained from their own crop, they need to get it certified from SSC. The certification includes different stages which begins from sowing and cultivation and culminate in harvesting. Seed certification is done by Federal Seed Certification and Registration Department. SSC officials accompany them as well. They visit farm land to verify whether the seed used is certified. Standing crop is examined and technical advices are given about the use of pesticides and cultivation methodology. Then there is post-thrashing sampling of seed. After multiple testing, the certificate and tag are issued to farmers to allow them to preserve or sell seed.
Certified seed can only be confirmed with tagging and registration number on bag containing it.