Formalising Indo-Bangla rice seed trade underscored

Prothom Alo, May 14, 2014

In a bid to contain informal trading of rice seeds between Bangladesh and India, two research organisations of the two countries have suggested long-term measures to formalise the trade.

The organisations also emphasised enhancing cooperation among the governments and private sector stakeholders on developing and exchanging high yield variety (HYV) rice seeds.

India’s Jaipur-based organisation Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) in association with Unnayan Shamannay, a Dhaka-based research and advocacy organisation, has come with such recommendations after conducting rigours study.

The study identifies that rice growing areas in Bangladesh and India, where farmers make routine and widespread use of smuggled seeds, can immensely gain from formalisation of trade and cooperation between the two countries. CUTS estimates that the gain could be in terms of market opportunity worth more than US$20 million.

CUTS also revealed a recommendatory paper summarising the findings of the study and recommendation few months back.

Earlier, in the field-level survey, undertaken as a part of the study, showed that several Bangladeshi rice varieties like BR-11, BR-12 and BR-9 are widely used in West Bengal and Bihar of India while farmers in Jharkhand are cultivating BR-8. Some farmers in West Bengal also use Bangladeshi hybrid variety Hira.

On the other hand, as detected in the field-survey, farmers in Chapainawabganj and Dinajpur districts of Bangladesh used Indian variety Swarna while farmers in Lalmonirhat, Bogra and Jessore are cultivating Parijat, Rajendra-Shweta and Minikit.

But in both the countries, farmers plant seeds smuggled from both the countries or grown and informally traded in Bangladesh and India.

Citing estimation of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), CUTS study shows that Indian rice varieties covered 12 percent of planted rice area of Bangladesh. It also identified that seeds are distributed through unregistered traders and middlemen while such informally traded seeds are often found to be of low quality, impacting rice yields.

CUTS study mentions that only 3-4 metric tonnes rice is yielded per hectare rice yields in both India and Bangladesh compared to the global average of 4.3 metric tonnes per hectare.

Against the backdrop, CUTS suggests for increased bilateral cooperation (trade and knowledge-sharing) in rice seeds as it has the potential of making the rice seeds market more competitive in terms of price and quality, leading to greater market efficiency. In addition, cooperation could also result in opening up new more avenues for other agricultural products.

Stressing cooperation between Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC) and Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the study recommends exchange of visit of scientists, trainees, graduate scholars and other professionals between ICAR and BARC. It also stresses exchange of scientific information would be valuable for research and training.

The study accommodates researchers’ consultation with public and private stakeholders to identify barriers to formal trade. It finds that both Bangladesh and India have put variety rice seeds on the list of notified crops allowing import of HYV rice seed only for trial purposes in a limited quantity.

Again, as both the countries have their own sets of laws, rules and regulations on growing, preserving and distributing seeds, CUTS recommends harmonisation of the regulations and standards considering the similarity of agro-climatic conditions of both the countries.

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