`Standardisation in production still the weak area'

Our Bureau

The protocols followed by the private and Government labs should not vary and widely varying reports on quality control would create doubts in the minds of the public.

Coimbatore, Dec. 24

With plant seed production entering the sensitive zone of late, it is time that seed testing laboratories be brought under the compulsory mechanism of quality auditing such as the ISO which will ensure quality imperatives in seed production as well as seed certification, according to Mr M. Ramasamy, Managing Director of the Athur-based Rasi Seeds Pvt Ltd.

Speaking at the inauguration of a two-day national conference on `Seed quality control', jointly organised by the UP-based National Seed Research and Training Centre (NSRTC) and the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) here, Mr Ramasamy, who is also the President of the Tamil Nadu Seed Producers Association, suggested evolving a suitable system of validating the seed testing laboratories which would bring down discrepancies and variations in the test analysis between two laboratories, especially between those in the Government sector and privately-run labs. He pointed out this in the context of fast changing seed production technology and also investment by the private sector in creating quality seed testing laboratories.

Varying reports

The protocols followed by the private and Government labs should not vary and too widely varying reports of quality control pronouncements between these labs would create doubts in the minds of the public, especially when issues such as transgenic crops have come to the public domain.

Inaugurating the conference, Mr S.L. Bhat, Joint Secretary (Seeds), Union Ministry of Agriculture, said with little scope to widen the country's crop area beyond the 141-144 million hectares, the nation's food security and yield output depends largely on productivity to be brought about by the propagation of quality seeds and crop technology. While a lot has been achieved on seeds, standardisation in seed production is still the weak area. The demand and supply gap in seed (all crops) in the country is estimated at around 10 million quintals. Barring a few States including Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, which have fared well in seed production, quality control on seeds is yet to improve in many States, though the seed replacement rate (SRR) appeared to have touched optimum levels.

The seed sector is still strongly dependent on farmers' own seeds. Mr Bhat said with the potential opening up of the global agri market, India could emerge as the seed production hub. The Centre's seed policy is aimed at developing this capacity.

As for the seed quality control upgradation programme, the Centre has allocated Rs 105 crore for the 2006-07 fiscal and it has allowed Rs 15 crore exclusively for upgrading the seed testing laboratories.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated December 25, 2006)
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