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−− Good quality seed would help in increasing the income of farmers by adding at least by 20-25 per cent to their harvest which in turn can be processed and given value addition with the support of other technologies to cash in the market.

Mar. 14, 2018

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Mar. 14, 2018
By AuthorD.Chandrabhaskar Rao

Dr K Keshavulu, Director ,TSSOCA
Doubling income of farmers, which has been high on the agenda of governments, can be translated into a reality by providing them with genuine and quality seeds besides adding entrepreneurial mindset to their skills.

Good quality seed would help in increasing the income of farmers by adding at least by 20-25 per cent to their harvest which in turn can be processed and given value addition with the support of other technologies to cash in the market, felt President of the International Seed Advisory Council and Director of Telangana State Seed and Organic Certification Authority (TSSOCA) Dr K Keshavulu.

He is the first Indian to become the executive member in the governing body of International Seed Testing Association (ISTA) and also a member of the Central Seed Committee, Government of India.

Keshavulu had injected a new life in the seed sector as part of the mission for reviving the fortunes of the Indian farmer. Associated with many research projects and studies undertaken by different national and international institutions, he is today the most sought-after person for agencies with a craving for footing in the sphere of seed certification.

Hailing from a remote village in Warangal district, Keshavulu looks back often with awe at the path of success he had created for himself the hard way. His humble rural beginning had a considerable impact on his life and helped him shape career suitably to meet the needs of farmers all over who have much in common with his parents. At one point of time, he was disappointed for not making it to medicine, but his resolve to tread the line seldom others would prefer to, made him what he is today.

In an exclusive interview to Telangana Today, he says sowing quality seed can bring about all the change. It helps in enhancing the scope for food security to the nation and income security to the farmer.

How well Indian farmers, for that matter Telangana ryots, are equipped to produce seed for the world market?

The climatic conditions in India and more particularly in Telangana are much better than many other countries. This is the major advantage enjoyed by Indian farmers. Farmers in Chile, Kenya, Thailand and Vietnam are no better compared to them. But, they are all major producers of seed. They are exporting seed and doing well in the seed trade.

Indian farmers are skilled and recognised well at the global level. Honesty is required in ensuring genuinity of product and quality maintenance and rest can be taken care of by the need-driven seed market. What pays ultimately in seed business is honesty. It ensures sustainability. Quality and genuinity will give extra yields of 20 per cent. What more the farmers can expect?

America and Brazil had been a big vegetable seed market, especially tomato and chilli, some six to seven years ago. Making timely supplies is all that needed to meet the deadlines. But making supplies in September for the seed to be sown in June will not help in the international market. This is where we need to improve a trade practice to establish ourselves in the trade.

What is scope for realising the targets set for capturing the global seed market?

India is a member of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Seed Schemes that authorises the use of globally recognised labels and certificates for seed produced and processed for international trade. This had already lent the country and its farmers a considerable advantage in the international seed market.

The considerable quantity of seed is already moving out of the country, especially paddy, sorghum, corn, jute and vegetables, to different countries including our neighbouring countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and hence, there is ample opportunity for the seed trade.

However, it is going unofficially and no official records are available. We can do it officially by supporting the trade with the global approved certification system. Jute seed supply to neighbouring countries is being made from both the Telugu States in a big way. Guntur and Gadwal farmers make bulk supplies to Bangladesh farmers. There is vast scope to formalise the seed supply channels and to increase the share in the global seed trade.

Despite the efforts made by the government and support given by the agencies concerned, Indian seed export share is very less and ranges between one to one and a half per cent, much below the target of ten per cent set for the next five-year period.

Major handicaps in the field of seed processing and development and what is our success in overcoming them?

The major challenge in the field of seed processing or post-harvest seed handling is seed storage. The maintenance of seed quality till it is used by farmers is the biggest challenge in our country due to the tropical climate. Hence, the need of the hour is innovative seed storage technology. Rapid strides were made in the sphere of storage technologies. Seed technology courses were introduced in the Agriculture University at Rajendranagar.

A seed science and technology department was established in the university. Many international research projects were taken up on the subject. Focused attention was paid to the seed storage technology in association with the USAID as the strategic member for seed systems for East African countries and South East Asian countries from 2010 to 2015. There was enough research on seed quality and breaking of seed dormancy. There was a great breakthrough in ensuring seed germination in high temperatures with the use of molecular technology unlike lettuce, the cool-weather crop that thrives in temperatures ranging from 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

Success of the seed industry in ensuring seed quality?

Most of the companies are working with a lot of consciousness. But, some are still neglecting the basic aspects of seed quality. The problem is unique for the entire country. Threshing, processing, storage and packing were all important stages of activity in their own way to ensure delivery of quality seed to farmers. The farmer is benefited immensely if the quality loss is averted. A lot of budgetary support is being provided for the research projects taken up on seed quality.

The Centre had also sanctioned an International Seed Testing Laboratory with state-of-the-art technology. It will be functional by July 2018 if everything goes as per the schedule. Realising the potential of the State in seed development and certification, the Central government endorsed Telangana as the nodal certification agency for seeds produced in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Chhattisgarh and five other States. Uttarakhand is evincing interest to join the seed certification mission led by TSSOCA. Its Minister for Agriculture Subodh Uniyal will visit Hyderabad with a delegation of official soon.

Considering the efforts being made towards the seed development, supply and certification, the International Seed Testing Association (ISTA) for the first time since its establishment, has given its nod for hosting an International Seed Congress in Hyderabad from June 26 to July 3, 2019. The eight-day conference would further highlight Telangana’s achievements in the seed quality assurance to farmers. This is going to be the major international event to be hosted by an Asian country in seed certification. It will be attended by delegates from over 100 countries, most of them being government officials associated with seed certification.

What is TSSOCA’s potential to meet the seed requirement of European countries?

All the European countries follow EU directives and have developed their own system of the seed certification, laws and unions. Non-European Union countries, willing to export seed to the EU, must meet the same criteria for seed standards, evaluation, identification, marking, control and packaging as seed harvested and controlled in the EU. So is the case with the North American countries.

Besides making all-out efforts to meet the European equivalence standards to export seeds to the European countries, India has to do a great deal in organising the South Asian countries into an organisation. Some of South Asian countries have been approaching India for its support and training in the field seed certification.

Telangana, which has hardened its stand against the agencies supplying spurious and low-quality seeds, has been doing a great deal for providing farmers with quality seed. The programme for shaping the State into a seed bowl will be yielding rich dividends, thanks to the State-sponsored initiatives. A major part of the cotton seed requirement in the country was being met by the State.

Mahabubnagar is known for its quality groundnut seed production. The State government has started several initiatives giving more teeth to the PD Act against the seed law offenders.

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