Agri Business

Seed firms now see gold in hybrid rice

| | Updated on: Feb 22, 2011




The seed industry, of late, is seeing gold in rice, a crop in which for long hybrid seeds were resisted. It was largely because of the unbeatable taste and flavour, the two attributes hybrid rice always failed to offer. Now things seem to have changed with the Directorate of Rice Research (DRR) and some other seed companies coming out with hybrids that come closer, if not equal, to the popularly accepted varieties.

The fact that less than 2.5 per cent of the total rice area of about 44 million hectares in the country is under hybrid cultivation shows how big an opportunity is in the offing. In the last 20 years, however, both area under rice and yield have been virtually stagnant. While the area has been in the 42.69-43.77-m-hectare range, yields have stagnated at 1,800- 2,200 kg/ha.

High potential

While seed companies see business in hybrid rice, policymakers and researchers say that the country will have no option but to embrace hybrid rice to feed the ever growing population.

“The Green Revolution has given us a quantum jump in yields. We need another bout of increase in yields, which is possible only through hybrids,” Dr B. C. Viraktamath, Project Director, DRR, told Business Line .

Despite being the world's leading rice producing country and the fifth largest seed industry in the world, the Indian seed industry is still hovering at Rs 8,000 crore.

“Reasons for the non-spread of hybrid rice can be attributed to lack of suitable products in different agro-climatic conditions, particularly for grain quality and crop duration,” Mr S. V. R. Rao, Senior Vice-President (Coordination and Strategic Planning), Nuziveedu Seeds Private Ltd, said.

NSL is among the leading seed companies that has of late developed interest in rice. It joined a consortium to fund a hybrid rice project with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the Philippines.

“Two of our varieties — Sonal and Motigold — have been notified by the Government of India,” he said.

Mahyco, which has set its eye on the promising business in rice, has said that research to develop hybrid rice was initiated in India way back in 1970s but with no success. “By the end of 2001, a total of 19 hybrid rice varieties were released,” a Mahyco spokesperson said.

“Incorporating resistance to some major pests and diseases, increasing average seed yields on a large scale to reduce seed costs are the research priorities,” he said.

Aggressive popularisation of hybrids and assured procurement of hybrid rice at a minimum support price are needed to promote these high-yielding seeds.

“If these problems can be solved, hybrid rice can be cultivated in 3-4 million hectares in the next 10 years. Mahyco, which began hybrid rice work in the mid-90s, had hybrids that range from early to medium maturity with good tillering ability,” he said.

Published on February 22, 2011

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