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Essay on the Importance of Seed Industry in Agriculture

The National Seeds Project (NSP) launched in 1975 with the assistance of World Bank had an objective of developing a broad-based decentralised network of seed production agencies throughout the country capable of meeting the requirements of different quantities of certified seed. That is, with adequate infrastructure for production, processing and storage of seeds. The National Seeds Projects I and II provided the basis for today’s seed industry. Under NSP I and II, State Seed Corporations were set up in Andhra Pradesh Bihar, Maryana. Karnataka, Maharashtra, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

The implementation of the New Policy for Seed Development in 1988, greatly encouraged foreign participation in the seed industry. The policy permitted private companies to import seeds of vegetables, flowers, and ornamental plants, subject to prior evaluation by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). Imports regarding seeds of coarse cereals, pulses, and oilseeds were also permitted but only under the condition that the Indian company importing the seed negotiate a technical cooperation agreement with the foreign supplier stipulating that parent lines, breeder seed, and seed production technology would be ceded to the Indian company within two years. Import duties on seed and seed processing equipment were lowered significantly.

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NSP III was launched in March 1990 with the assistance of World Bank. The main objectives of the project were:

(i) To assist the farmers by ensuring timely and adequate availability of certified/ quality seeds of suitable varieties at reasonable prices.

(ii) To improve the working efficiency of the National and State level public sector seed companies so as to make them economically viable.

(iii) To provide facilities for the growth of private seed industry through adequate institutional finance.

Public sector:

Like many agriculturally developed Asian nations, India too has a sizeable amount of public and private sector seed businesses. Giant public sector players include the National Seed Corporation (NSC), the State Farms Corporation of India (SFCI) and the thirteen State Seed Corporations (SSCs). NSC was the first public sector organisation, established in 1963, and remained virtually the only agency in seed production for about 13 years.

Its role extended to several development programmes including training, quality control and extension activities in seeds. This was followed by the setting up of the SSCs under two consecutive plan periods, supported by the World Bank, and these largely adopted to role of the NSC in the Indian States. These corporations mainly engage in production and marketing of seed of high yielding and hybrid varieties developed by the public sector.

Private Sector:

Although private seed companies such as Poacha and Sutton have been established since the pre-independence era, accelerated growth of the private sector began only after the introduction of the new seed policy in 1988 which ushered in a liberal business climate. Currently there are over 200 private seed companies, together with a few multinationals, and these tend to focus on low volume, high value crops with the principal effort being placed on creating hybrids for oilseeds, maize, cotton and vegetable crops. The private sector accounts for 70 per cent of the market turnover whereas the public sector has the greater share in volume sales.

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