Saturday, May 25, 2024

Foreign firms charge exorbitant price for seeds

LAHORE – Multinational companies involved in Pakistan’s seed business sell their products to farmers at much higher rates as compared to other countries of the region especially India.Seed Association of Pakistan (SAP) spokesman Shafiqur Rehman claimed this during an interaction with Agriculture Journalists Association (AJA) at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Friday.

The reason behind high price of multinational companies’ seed, according to the SAP leader, was the failure of federal and provincial governments to develop any price formula.He said that if price formula was formed then his organization would sell locally developed seed of different major crops to farmers at more low rates than their present prices.”We are compelled to sell seeds in market keeping in view the prices of multinational companies and we have to do it for the satisfaction of the farmers.

If a multinational company sells a maize seed at price of Rs9,000 per bag then we can’t offer the same at half price although we can afford it,” he said.Shafiq was the view that the growers opted to pick the costly seed to avoid any kind of risk and psychological issues. So, he added, the local companies fix the seed prices keeping in mind their foreign competitors.

He also claimed the local seed companies outperformed their foreign competitors in research and development especially in production of high yielding corn varieties.”The local scientists of national companies associated with SAP emerged victorious by topping the National Uniform Yield Trials (NUYT) conducted by National Agriculture Research Council (NARC) for the last two years,” he said, adding the trials were conducted in an impartial manner on ten different sites including lands of public sector research institutions, private local and multinational seed companies.

He said some of these multinational seed companies were world leaders in maize seed research and development. The results were announced recently, he added.Sharing details of national seed competition, he said, three corn hybrids namely SB-9663, SB-9617 & SB-9618 got top three positions in competition of Yellow Maize Hybrids in Spring 2017.

The highest production recorded by these locally produced seeds was as high as 10.265 tons per hectare and this was more than double of the present average corn production in the country, he said.Similarly, Shafiq said, another hybrid seed variety namely CS-240 produced top yield and got first position in NUYT competition of Yellow and White Maize Hybrids in Spring 2016, producing average production of 9.905 tons per hectare.The spokesman was of the view that these promising results show that local competitive genetic material (germplasm) is sufficiently available in the country to produce high-quality hybrid corn seeds for the spring season.

Presently, we are importing these hybrid corn seeds from various countries, spending billions of rupees foreign exchange, he explained. Shafiq elaborated that locally produced hybrid seed was already acclimatized to local conditions as well as have vigour to resist against pest and disease attacks. Especially, unlike foreign competing seed varieties, locally produced corn hybrids are capable of tolerating high temperatures, he said and adding such characteristics of local hybrid seeds have brightened the prospects of multiplying the maize production in the country.

This seed is available to the farmers at affordable prices, he maintained.He proudly said that out of about 200 members, many SAP companies are conducting basic seed research for developing genetic material. “We have been blessed with huge genetic material for breeding of hybrid seed in addition to running processing units and a network of state of the art seed testing labs.”Highlighting the importance of corn, Shafiq said, like wheat and rice, corn is a staple diet in much of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Azad Kashmir and some other rural belts.

In addition to human use, 75 per cent of corn use has been for fodder and feed of livestock and poultry. It includes green fodder, silage, poultry and animal feed.As many as 20 per cent of the corn produce is used by the food processing industry for manufacturing cereals, refined flour, custards etc while remaining five per cent is used as seed and other purposes.  Corn use has vast potential to increase manifold as its production is expected to increase significantly in years to come, he viewed.Given the latest trends, he opined, use of corn grain and plants can be increased manifold by promoting use of ethanol and manufacturing of other products. In this connection, the government should announce incentive for these value additions.

Talking about corn or maize crop, he said, it is the third most important and the highest yielding cereal crop of the country after wheat and rice.”Maize is grown on an area of 1.334 million hectares with annual production of 6.130 million tons, showing average grain yield 4.595 tons/ha. Punjab is major maize producing province contributing 65 percent in area and 85 percent in production. Punjab’s average yield stands at a higher side with 6.032 tons per hectare output. At national level, corn contributes 2.7 percent to the value added in agriculture & 0.5percent to GDP of the country, he added.Shafiq said Pakistan was poised to become self-sufficient in production of corn hybrid seeds and this was a major development towards achieving the goal of food security of the country.

Article Written by: Iftikhar Alam

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