Informal trade of rice seeds rising in border areas: study

Press Trust of The Daily Star, September 07, 2014

Informal trade of rice seeds has been rising in the border areas of Bangladesh and India in absence of formal trade, CUTS International said in a study.

Farmers of both the countries have to buy low-quality seeds of popular high yielding varieties (HYVs) from the informal market, the study said.

“Formalising HYV rice seeds trade between the two countries will take agricultural cooperation to a higher level and make quality seeds more accessible,” according to a joint communiqué.

CUTS International and local NGO Unnayan Shamannay published the joint communiqué under a project — addressing barriers to rice seeds trade between India and Bangladesh — funded by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The study finds that two Indian HYV or inbred varieties of rice — miniket and swarna — are coming to Bangladesh and farmers are cultivating these varieties in border districts such as Jessore, Chapainawabganj and Dinajpur.

Bangladesh’s inbred rice seeds varieties such as BR-11, BRRI Dhan-28 and BRRI Dhan-29 are very popular and grown in India’s West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha and Jharkhand

The study cited an estimate by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research that Indian rice varieties cover 12 percent of planted rice area in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh needs more than three lakh tonnes of rice seeds in all three seasons.

Public agencies and private firms supply more than one-third of the demand, while the rest is met by farmers’ own reserves of seeds and informal markets, according to the agriculture ministry.

Currently, Bangladesh meets most of its demand for hybrid rice seeds through imports, mainly from China and India.

The CUTS study said Bangladesh is a net rice seed importer and the estimated market size was $5.9 million in fiscal 2010-11. India is a net exporter but export of its hybrid rice seeds to Bangladesh remains negligible at less than 3 percent of its total rice seeds.

The study said formalisation of in-bred rice seeds trade can immensely benefit both the neighbours.

The gains could be in terms of market opportunity estimated worth more than $20 million, improved crop yields and food security, and better livelihood, it added.

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