National Seeds Corporation Ltd. (NSC) is a Schedule ‘B’-Miniratna Category-I company, which is owned by the Indian government and operates under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare. It is undertaking the production of certified seeds of nearly 600 varieties. Pradeep Kumar Patnaik, Dy. General Manager (Mktg.), Regional Manager, National Seeds Corporation Ltd., spoke to BE’s Isha Chakraborty.
Q. How are you facilitating seed security for the agricultural sector?
A. The National Seeds Corporation (NSC) is a Government of India (GoI) undertaking company. We are generally producing certified seeds. For certified seeds, we need the foundation seeds where the complete information history of the seeds is detailed. So, declaring the parentage of these seeds is one of our most important activities since this is important to make sure that the farmers are getting better quality seeds.
Q. How are seed banks helping the farmers?
A. Seed banks are maintained for supplying seeds in time of some serious disaster or natural calamity. The seeds in these banks are provided to the farmers belonging to different states. There are different seeds starting from paddy to pulses. Secondly, these seed banks are maintained for supplying seeds to the north-east region because of their distance and difficult terrain. We also receive remuneration for maintaining these seeds seasonally and these seeds are not sold outside. We only sell or provide these to the West Bengal government’s agricultural department or to the farmers who are associated with us.
Q. What is the difference between traditional seeds and High-Yielding Variety (HYV) seeds?
A. The normal or traditional seeds are the farm soiled seeds, where a farmer is producing his greens and he keeps some of the produced seeds for future use. But in the case of high-yielding variety of seeds, there is a chain from breeder to foundation. A breeder from ICAR produces the nucleus after genetically selecting and isolating the specific good variety. It is then transferred as the breeder seed to a foundation seed and from there it is finally made into a certified seed. The whole process is done for maintaining the purity and the quality of the seeds. HYV seeds are definitely better than the farm seeds since they deteriorate in terms of quality in the breeding process or the seed circle. HYV seeds need better management. If you maintain the HYV seeds properly, the returns would be certainly better.
Q. What problems do you find in seed sale and distribution?
A. The biggest crisis that is to be dealt with is low volume and very high margin but in our case, the volumes are higher than the margins. Transportation is a problem which is faced all over the country. This also affects the seed costs as well. For proper HYV seeds, a particular ratio of everything is required. Some people are even buying seeds from general markets, and then putting a tag of certification and selling it. At NSC, we are trying to stop these malpractices and regularise the correct procedures. There is another side to this. If the farmers don’t get a proper produce even after investing so much, they are likely to face financial and mental pressure. But then one has to check the soil fertility as well in order to get the best produce.
Q. What are the factors that affect the seed quality?
A. First, the breeder to the foundation seed journey is very important and should be true to the type. They should be bought from a reputable institute where rouging is seriously performed so that the off types are removed. Secondly, the seeds should be harvested at a proper moisture level, i.e., at 12% for proper maturity. If the level of moisture goes up to 14% or more before maturity, then the harvested product will be of poor quality. Thirdly, while storing the seeds, proper protection should be taken to combat insect attacks.
Q. What kind of seeds is being focused on and why?
A. In Bengal, Odisha, and in the north eastern states, we are dealing with paddy since all these states have the best production in terms of paddy cultivation. We are also focusing on lentils or pulses like moong and urad. Apart from this, we also have vegetable seeds and fodder crops.
Q. Are the farmers purchasing the seeds themselves or are there some middlemen?
A. Generally, there are two sectors from where we receive our registration. One is the governmental sector and the other is the non-government sector. So, in government sectors we generally deal with the state government and certain institutes where we have registered dealers who purchase the seeds. The non government dealers are also actively purchasing from us through dealers and then supplying them ahead. The number of dealers who are purchasing the seeds has definitely gone up in recent years. Since the government has reduced the subsidies on seeds, people are selecting to shift to the non-government dealers.
Q. Has demonetisation affected the whole situation?
A. Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) and demonetisation has recently come into the picture. DBT ensures that whenever there is a subsidy on the seeds, it should go to the farmers directly but for that he has to pay the full cost of the seeds. After demonetisation, the farmers were not prepared to give the full rate. The cost might come down to Rs. 2000 after the application of subsidy but they still have to pay the full amount and wait for the Rs. 3000 to be returned. Not every farmer was financially able to purchase the seeds for Rs. 5000. This forced many of them to buy seeds from the market at a much cheaper price. The government has been changing the modules which further tries to help the farmers in terms of rates of the seeds but it is going to take some time.