Need for Cooperation between India and Bangladesh

International Chamber of Commerce, Cameroon, Newsletter 25 September, 2013
Trade in agriculture inputs such as rice seeds can not only improve the economic situation of farmers and traders but also have larger long term political-economic benefits for countries involved in it. Despite similar agro-climatic conditions, compatible varieties, evidence of informal trade and potentiality of formal trade in High Yielding Varieties (HYV), formal trade of HYV rice seeds between India and Bangladesh is not a normal feature in bilateral relations.

About the Project

Small farmers in both India and Bangladesh suffer from low agricultural productivity. Increasing crop productivity is, therefore, one of the major challenges faced by these farmers. Given the level of poverty and the imperative of agricultural growth in poverty reduction, this is particularly important in Eastern India and in Bangladesh. Statistical evidences show that not only that the productivity of small-holder farmers is low in Eastern India and Bangladesh but also, and as compared to other products and other regions of India, it is less in case of rice production, the most important staple crop in these regions.

Even though the adoption of high-yielding (inbred or hybrid) varieties of seeds is quite high among small farmers in both eastern part of India and Bangladesh, why is it that the productivity of small farmers, particularly rice farmers is not that high? Is it a case of high-yielding varieties of seeds not yielding higher productivity as a result of unfavourable environmental conditions and other factors/agricultural practices?

While in case of Eastern India the problem of using high-yielding hybrid varieties of rice seeds is not so much about their availability, it is so in Bangladesh. Bangladesh imports most of its requirement of hybrid rice seeds from China. It is surprising that much of this Bangladeshi import of hybrid rice seeds is not sourced from India, particularly Eastern India. Similarly, formal trade of seeds of high yielding rice varieties from India to Bangladesh is almost non-existent, despite some ground-level evidence of informal cross-border movement of seeds. Similarity of agro-climatic conditions in eastern India and Bangladesh indicates that high yielding rice varieties grown in eastern India are also likely to be suitable to conditions in Bangladesh (particularly, in the south western, western and north-western regions). Similarly, it is also known that Bangladesh has released about 70 high-yielding varieties of rice. Yet, a lack of formal seed trade restricts the opportunities for gains to farmers on both the sides.

The project makes an attempt to understand the factors which lead to (1) low productivity of rice in the identified regions; (2) low rice seed trade between India and Bangladesh; and (3) how can the situation improve? It also seeks to provide answer to some important questions: what would be the potential gains to Bangladesh from substantially larger capacity of India to produce rice seeds, if they are imported? What would be the likely gains for Indian farmers from the use of some of the varieties developed by Bangladesh, if formal trade in seeds develops?

The project through the production and dissemination of advocacy documents, policy briefs, policy advocacy messages will conclude with a forward-looking agenda on regulatory matters for enhancing rice seeds trade between India and Bangladesh including an agenda for cooperation on larger issues of agricultural development in Eastern India and Bangladesh.

Thus, in order to fill this critical gap in bilateral relations between India and Bangladesh, with support from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a project entitled Addressing Barriers to Rice Seeds Trade between India and Bangladesh is being implemented.

In order to understand the various aspects of flow, policies, regulations, trade potential and problems related to HYV rice seeds in India and Bangladesh, CUTS has prepared a monograph which can be accessed at: … _India_and_Bangladesh.pdf.

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