Monday, July 12, 2010


What is ailing Indian agriculture? Do the rulers in Delhi have any clue regarding the reasons for continued stagnation in food production in spite of the massive subsidies being showered on the farmers? Here is a classical treatise, reproduced verbatim, on the subject by one of the respected commentators, specialized in studies on food in India.

"Hybrid seed is a lucrative market. There was a time when close to 2,000 brands of hybrid seeds of cotton were being sold in Andhra Pradesh. Interestingly, at least one of the parents in most of these hybrids (you need two parent lines to develop a hybrid) was common. I wonder how can so many different kinds of hybrids (and all with higher productivity) could be developed with one parent being common. In other words, most of these popular brands were nothing but duplicates being sold under different names".

"In the absence of any price regulation, farmers end up paying a hefty price for the hybrid seeds, and often end up being fleeced. The price variation is so wide that one does not know why the state governments refuse to put a stop to what is nothing but cheating. Take for instance the prices of vegetable hybrids. Prices of tomato hybrid seeds vary between Rs 475 and Rs 76,000 a kg; cabbage seeds are priced between Rs 5,840 and Rs 22,260; and capsicum between Rs 3,670 and Rs 65,200. The hybrid seeds of cotton and rice too are prohibitively expensive compared to the improved varieties in the market".

"What if the hybrid seed fails, does the farmer get any compensation? The answer is no. In Andhra Pradesh, in 2005, after large scale failure of genetically modified Bt cotton seeds in Warangal district, the state government asked Mahyco-Monsanto to pay compensation. The company refused to do so and instead moved the high court saying that the government was trying to harass them. The case is still pending before the court. This is not an isolated incident. In several states, farmers have failed to get adequate compensation for crop failures resulting from spurious hybrid seeds".

Is there no solution to the food problem that is facing the country? Is the Indian citizen destined to be dependent on imported "dals" and edible oils perennially, exposing him to the international price fluctuations similar to the situation that exists to day with regard to fossil fuel? Why not the ruling elite leave the politics on the sideline and think about the country and its future for a change? Debating on the subject like GM crops or hybrid seeds is not going to carry the country far and now is the action needed to deal with this critical problem facing the country. Unless the farmers are organized into a cohesive force through cooperatives or corporate entities with at least 1000 hectares of land that will enable them to harness optimum inputs at minimum cost, raising agricultural productivity is a mirage that the country will have to chase for years to come!.


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