targeting autarky in wheat seeds

Targeting autarky in wheat seeds
By Tahir Ali
(Dawn Monday, 26 Apr, 2010)
OFFICIALS of the Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa Agriculture Department are optimistic that the province will become self-sufficient in the production of wheat seeds by end of this year.

“If sufficient funds, staff and strong organisational backup are provided, the province may even become exporter of wheat and maize seeds from next year,” said Mohammad Ismail Jan, director seeds, provincial agricultural development fund.

Self-sufficiency in wheat seed production has been a long cherished dream of successive provincial governments but it is now being vigorously targeted. “We have close liaison with the farmers for providing high-yielding seeds to them,” he added.

“The annual wheat seed requirement of the Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa (KhP) stands at around 8000 metric tons. This year seed production is expected to be over 15,000MT (9500MT by the public sector and the rest by the private sector). The province could double the yield if sufficient funds, staff and a strong institutional backup are ensured. This could help earn billions of rupees for the cash-strapped province,” he said.

Normally, the KhP had suffered shortage of the essential commodity and farmers got their seeds on inflated cost.

“Last year seed crops were sown on around 9000 acres in the public sector but a sizeable quantity of the produce was discarded for being of low quality. The procured seed was around 5000MT as against 3000MT the preceding year. This year area under seed crops has come down to around 6,000 acres but the good quality seed and better climatic conditions in the irrigated areas would make up the deficiency,” the official hopes.

Seeds are of three varieties –the pre-basic, basic and certified. Pre-basic is the best quality seed produced in agricultural research farms. It is provided to the agricultural extension department for cultivation in its six farms. This basic seed is sold to potential progressive farmers for cultivation.

For maize crop, the best ever seed hybrid varieties of Karamat and Babar have been introduced. “We have also started a programme for hybrid vegetable varieties but it is in the formative phase,” the official said.

As regards wheat crop, it is regularly monitored and the seeds certified by the federal seeds certification and registration department (FSC&RD). It is procured and sold to farmers in the province at Rs1700/50kg. The commodity is provided through seed depots and farm services centres. The officials of agriculture department are responsible for its marketing and distribution.

“The agriculture research is designed to develop new varieties of wheat that are best suited to the agro-climatic conditions of different areas in the province. For irrigated lands, the best wheat seed is Sahar, Pirsabaq 2005 and Nepa Batoor. For rain-fed areas, Tatara, Zam 04, PS 2005, Hasham 08, Dera 98 and Gomal 08 are the best quality seeds, the official added.

“These locally developed wheat seeds are high-yielding varieties and their per acre yield ranges between 1500-1600kg. It is better than the national average yield of 2,600kg per hectare. If the seed yield gets doubled in future then by bringing more land under wheat and maize cultivation, autarky for the province could be ensured. Also think of the financial output of this yield on that basis for the province. It will be in billions of rupees,” another official argued.

At present, there are bulk seed stores in only four districts of the province for keeping seeds. More bulk stores need to be built in other districts and the tribal areas. The storage capacity of the existing bulk stores should also be increased.

The seed processing capacity needs to be increased because of growing demand. There are only four seeds processing plants with limited capacity. More state of the art processing plants should be opened in all the districts.

At present, more than 500 national and five multinational companies are registered and allowed to market seeds. But strengthening the public sector seeds production capacity is required to stabilise market prices.

“One farmer should be given the responsibility of seed production of only one variety of crop and incentives to progressive farmers should be announced. Seeds for hilly and cool areas should also be developed. Seeds testing labs should be ensured at district level or at least divisional level to ensure quality seeds,” said a grower.

The government should gradually reduce dependence on imported seeds by developing and improving production of local seeds.

Khalid Mir, a multinational official, said, “the main issue in seed business is the absence of laws governing breeders’ rights. This is the first issue the government should tackle,” he said.

“Accredited seed laboratories both in private sector and public sectors should be set up. Private companies need to be encouraged to introduce new seed varieties that could boost productivity,” he added.

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About Tahir Ali Khan
I am an academic, freelance columnist, writer and a social worker.

One Response to targeting autarky in wheat seeds

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