India - Acute Shortage Of Bt Cotton Seeds In Andhra Pradesh
Dated- 24 Jun , 2012 - India
Already hit by the sharp rise in the prices of Bt cotton seeds, farmers of Andhra Pradesh are now faced with an acute shortage of seeds leading to an unprecedented crisis in the state this year due to hoarding and black-marketing by seed dealers, besides flooding of spurious seeds from neighboring states.
Andhra Pradesh is the biggest cultivator of Bt cotton in the country with the area of cultivation reaching nearly 51 lakh acres this year, as against 44 lakh hectares last year.
Each acre requires at least two bags, each bag containing 450 gms of Bt cotton seeds. Thus, it requires 1.02 lakh crore bags of Bt cotton seeds. Last year, the state government had increased the price of Bt cotton seeds (Bt-II variety which is mostly popular in the state) from Rs.750 to Rs.930 per packet; thus, the annual turnover of the Bt cotton seeds sale is around Rs.1,000 crore.
Though the agriculture department officials have claimed that there are adequate stocks of Bt cotton seeds, the demand is so heavy that at several places, department officials are forced to allot seeds to farmers through draw of lots or even through auction, so that whoever pays higher rate would get the seed packets.
Long queues are being witnessed in front of the agriculture market committee offices in different parts of the state, particularly in the Telangana region and a few parts of coastal Andhra region where cotton is grown on a big scale.
The Bt cotton seed production technology was patented by multinational seed major Monsanto, which was first marketed in the country by the local seed company Mahyco-Monsanto. Subsequently, several other seed companies like Raasi Seeds Pvt Ltd, Nuzveedu Seeds Pvt Ltd, Bioseeds Pvt Ltd, Pioneer Seeds and Lead Better Seeds Pvt Ltd, bought the technology from Monsanto by paying royalty of Rs.225 per packet on Bt-II variety.
But the farmers have preferred Mahyco company seeds to the Bt cotton seeds of other companies as the agriculture department officials initially propagated that they are the high-yielding varieties. However, the company could not meet the demand and this year, it could supply only six lakh packets in the state. As a result, the seed dealers have resorted to purchase of Mahyco company seeds from neighbouring states and hoarding of stocks.
When contacted, a spokesperson of the Mahyco Seeds Limited refused to comment on the shortage of Bt cotton seeds in Andhra Pradesh. "The company is making an assessment of the situation and it will come out with an official statement on the Bt cotton seed supply position in the country and Andhra Pradesh in a day or two," the spokesperson said.
The creation of artificial scarcity led to spiralling of prices. According to N Yadagiri, a cotton farmer of Atmakur in Warangal district, they were forced to buy a packet of Mahyco Bt cotton seeds at Rs.2,000 per packet. "We had no choice, as the agriculture department officials allotted the seed packets on lottery and we had to approach the dealers because of scarcity," he said.
AP Seedsmen Association secretary Venkat Reddy accused the government of promoting only Mahyco seeds, though there were 42 other seed companies that produce Bt cotton. He appealed to farmers not to depend only on Mahyco, as it cannot fulfill the needs of all cotton farmers and purchase the seeds of other companies as well.
Adding to the shortage of seeds, the unscrupulous seed traders flooded the market with spurious seeds to lure the farmers at cheaper rates. In the last couple of days, the vigilance wing of the agriculture department seized spurious seed packets worth Rs.4 crore during its raids in different parts of the state and registered as many as 60 cases against these traders.
"Normally, the seed companies undertake grading of seeds and package only quality seeds, which will be certified by the quality control wing. The poor quality and spurious seeds are discarded. The seed dealers collect these poor quality seeds and package them in attractive sachets and sell them to farmers at cheaper rate. It is only after sowing that the farmers realize that they are of poor quality," a department official said.
For example, in Kurnool district, the officials on Friday seized 51 quintals of poor quality Bt cotton seeds which were labeled as Mahyco seeds. The officials found that the seeds were artificially coloured so as to look attractive to farmers. Similarly in Anantapur, the vigilance officials seized 1,000 packets of spurious Bt cotton seeds. The authorities also arrested seed traders selling Bt cotton seeds at a higher price.
At several places, the officials seized Bt cotton seeds hoarded by seed dealers. In Nalgonda district, officials seized Rs.10 lakh worth seeds. Similar raids were conducted in Warangal where the district agriculture wing conducted searches on the fertilizer shops and seized illegal cotton seed stocks, which were transported from Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.
Agriculture commissioner Madhusudhan Rao said special teams had been formed to conduct raids on seed dealers and prevent sale of spurious Bt cotton seeds in the market. "I personally inspected the stocks of spurious seeds in Kurnool district. Stern action is being taken to prevent such unscrupulous methods," he said.