Bangladesh: A welcome move towards ensuring quality seeds
3rd July, Dhaka: The Cabinet has given final approval to the draft of the Seed Act-2017.
Author: Karishma Binte Jahangir
The regular cabinet meeting on Monday approved the draft of 'The Seeds Act, 2017' to make the existing law more time-befitting. A 25-member National Seed Board will be formed to deal with the seed sector effectively. The age-old proverb 'As you sow, so shall you reap' applies to quality seeds in farm production. These seeds might be of paddy, potato and vegetable.
It is to be noted here that quality seeds have led to a silent revolution in agricultural production in Bangladesh. If not, how could Bangladesh feed its 116 million population almost trebling rice output while the country has emerged as the third largest vegetable grower in the world? In Asia, it is the largest producer of vegetables.
According to Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI), vegetable consumption has increased by 71 per cent since 1994, from 42 gram per capita per day to 70gm. Experts say seeds play the most important role for sustainable crop production. Quality seeds can increase 15-20 per cent yield potential. This is true for all crops including vegetables.
Officials said, the public sector produced 4.0 per cent of 2,854 metric tonnes of vegetable seeds the country required in 2014-15 fiscal year, while the private sector companies supplied more than 66 per cent of the requirement. The import stood at 582 metric tonnes. It shows that Bangladesh has significantly reduced its dependence on seed import.
It's also true that there are many cases where good quality seeds have yielded low quality crops. For a good crop, high quality seed is one factor. But there are other factors as well. The seed sector needs to be regulated better. Bangladeshi scientists have invented many new varieties of vegetables but they cannot distribute these seeds to the grassroots level due to lack of skilled manpower and effective marketing system. Seed companies should involve their scientists in skill development training. They should introduce small seed packages for households or small-scale vegetable production.
Bangladeshi scientists have invented summer variations of many vegetables such as summer tomato, summer capsicum and so on. But then to ensure quality of the seeds, there must be a certification system. Many seed companies do not have state-of-the-art seed laboratories. So they do not know what they are selling to farmers. When the seed fails, all the seed companies are blamed. That's why the seed companies should come forward to get certification from a seed authority.
That the government is aware of such a need is amply evident from the decision to form a 25-member National Seed Board with Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture as its Chairman, while Director General (Seed Wing) under the Ministry of Agriculture would be its Member Secretary. The Board will mainly focus on control of seed quality.
There will be a Seed Certification Agency that will give permission and licence for seed dealership. Besides, there will be a post of Seed Inspector who will visit the markets to inspect seed quality and dealership licence. But then there must be more inspectors to monitor seed markets countrywide. Besides, a provision has also been kept in the proposed law to operate mobile courts for enforcement of the law. Henceforth, permission would not be given to import seeds unless the packaging label and standard marks are proper in terms of their quality. But mere enactment of laws will not deliver the goods unless such laws are enforced strictly. We hope, the draft law, if implemented fully, will lead to significant rise in crop production in Bangladesh.
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