“There is a need to enhance exchange of knowledge between India and Bangladesh in order to promote rice seed trade between the two countries”, said Bipul Chatterjee in a conference jointly held by CUTS International, India, and its partner Unnayan Shamannay, Bangladesh, on 22nd December, 2013, in Dhaka. The conference was held under the project titled ‘Addressing Barriers to Rice Seeds Trade between India and Bangladesh’, implemented by CUTS and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The conference also marked release of the publication by CUTS International titled ‘Potential for Trade in Seeds between India and other SAARC Countries.’
Earlier, Mr Bipul Chatterjee in his intervention suggested that harmonisation of standards, streamlining of certification process and quarantine laws can further enhance bilateral cooperation between India and Bangladesh on rice seeds trade. He opined that several steps can be taken at institutional level to increase the cross border trade on rice seeds such as developing regional/bilateral seed bank; establishing joint body for research and development in agriculture; allowing seed trade in border haat, amongst others.
While making the opening remarks, Mr Anwar Faruque, Additional Secretary, Director General, Seed Wing, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of Bangladesh, mentioned that several issues related to Intellectual Property Rights restrict formal trade of rice seeds between the two countries. In order to increase formal trade of rice seeds, it is important to tackle existing trade barriers by harmonising the policies on one hand, and on the other hand efforts should be taken to minimize the creation of new barriers. He further stated that this can begin with rice seed and eventually can be extended to other relevant sectors.
Mr Swapan Kumar Datta, Deputy Director-General (Crop Sciences), India Council of Agricultural Research, opined that principally there should be much more trade between India and Bangladesh and there should not be any place for trade barriers.
Mr Mahbub Hossain, Executive Director, BRAC, Bangladesh, in his intervention highlighted that rice seed is a sensitive issue as it is not only an input but is a subject matter of farmer’s livelihood. He further suggested that, in this context, public private partnership can play a vital role.
Mr Mahfuz Kabir, Senior Research Fellow, BIISS, underlined that several barriers exists in smooth flow of rice seed trade such as issues related to intellectual property rights, lack of harmonisation in laboratory testing and chemical testing; labeling requirements; registration of trading permits; quarantine requirements; sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) requirements. He further elaborated that India needs several bio-security and import permits, which are complex and difficult to obtain for exporters from Bangladesh. Hence cooperation in customs administration and banking relationships at the border is much needed to enhance rice seed trade between the two countries.
The conference was participated by several experts and relevant stakeholders to discuss ways in which an enabling environment can be developed to promote seeds trade and knowledge-sharing on HYV rice seeds between India and Bangladesh. It is well known that there exists a thriving informal trade in rice seeds between the two countries, which is disadvantageous for farmers on both sides, particularly in terms of quality of rice seeds and in the context that it has a direct implication on the food security of two countries.
It concluded by mulling over several initiatives that can be embraced to influence changes to policies and practices to facilitate formalisation and expansion of bilateral trade and knowledge-sharing on improved varieties of rice seeds, particularly HYV rice seeds, between Bangladesh and India.
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