By Narasimha Reddy
From March onwards, the private seed industry has been lobbying with state governments to increase the price of Bt cotton seed. First Gujarat increased the seed prices, followed by Karnataka and other states. There was intense pressure on Andhra Pradesh too.
Meanwhile, the private seed industry has been claiming that there are 3.4 crore Bt seed packets (each packet of 450 gms), and it expects the demand to be more than this. Its expectation was that the shortage, or additional demand, would be 40 lakh packets.
650 gm of Bt cotton seed is required per acre. However, since the package is of 450 gms, farmers buy two packets per acre. So 3.4 crore packets would be sufficient for 170 lakh acres of cotton fields. Last year, as per government estimates, cotton was sown in 110 lakh acres in India. Now if the demand has risen to 170 lakh acres, the growth would be 54 percent. However, authentic trends show that the growth rate cannot be more than 10 percent. At the maximum, it can be 20 percent.
In AP, as per official records in 2010-11, the area under cotton crop was 18 lakh acre and about 80 lakh packets (of 450 gm) were used by farmers. The expected area under cotton crop this year (2011-12) is about 20 lakh acre and the requirement of cotton seed this year would be around 90 lakh packets of 450 gm. Even if one takes, 4 packets per acre, there should be surplus of 10 lakh packets in AP state alone.
Seed prices were increased by the governments, with no independent verification of the information given by the seed companies about rising seed production costs.
There seems to be lot of distortion, fudging and deliberate misinformation being spread by the seed companies, primarily to increase the anxiety among farmers and make a quick buck. Unfortunately, the government seems to be an ‘aware’ silent spectator, if not a partner-in-arms. Alas there is no independent agency, which can correct this faulty system. No ‘conscientious’ politician or official has stood up to the machinations of the seed companies. Farmers become victims of a powerful combine of politicians, traders and companies. From February to May, it was the case with grain traders and millers, in June, it is by seed companies and in July, we would probably see the manipulations of fertilizer companies and traders.