Stressing on the need to provide farmers with quality seeds, Union Cooperation Minister Amit Shah on Thursday said the government aims to develop new varieties using traditional seeds to ensure they are only on par with the world’s highest yielding varieties, but also contain health benefits.

Launching the newly established Bharatiya Beej Sahakari Samiti Ltd (BBSSL), which was approved by the Cabinet in January, Shah said the share of India in the global seed trade is less than 1 per cent and that he was confident the seed cooperative would strengthen the country’s position.

The BBSSL has an authorised share capital of Rs 500 crore and has been established with an initial paid-up share capital of Rs 250 crore, shared equally by IFFCO, Kribhco, Nafed, National Co-operative Development Corporation (NCDC), and National Dairy Development Board (NDDB). The rest will be held by primary agricultural credit societies (PACS) and other cooperatives once they become members.

Shah unveiled the logo, website and brochure of BBSSL and distributed membership certificates.

Benefiting small farmers

The minister said that BBSSL has made a small beginning but is set to make a major contribution in India’s seeds production, conservation, promotion and research efforts.

He said small farmers, who are left out of privately controlled seed chain development, can benefit by becoming members of local PACS, which will be roped in by BBSSL for seed production. “The entire profit made by this cooperative will be distributed among farmers directly into their bank accounts,” he announced.

Of the 787 lakh quintal seeds required annually, only 372 lakh quintal is available through organised retail, leaving an untapped potential for 415 lakh quintal (estimated value of Rs 40,000 crore), for which farmers rely on their own crops and that of their neighbours.

Highlighting the potential of the cooperative sector in the seed business, he said it should aim to grow its share from less than one per cent of certified seeds production to 33 per cent.

BBSSL will work in collaboration with ICAR, IARI, central and state agriculture universities, and Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) as there is no competition with these organisations, the minister said.

Promoting local R&D

He said seed production in India is by and large based on the technology of other countries and was confident that Indian agriculture scientists, if given a good platform, will develop varieties having the highest yield in the world. The BBSSL will also work in R&D of seeds, he added.

He pointed out that lack of access to scientifically produced certified seeds affected not only farmers but also the country’s foodgrain production.

“There is a need to conserve traditional seeds of India and distribute those among farmers to ensure health-proof production of foodgrains and other food items as well as fruits and vegetables. This task will also be performed by the seed cooperative,” Shah said.

BBSSL will focus on production, testing, certification, processing, storage, labelling, packaging and exports of seeds simultaneously, he said, adding that the entire ecosystem will use modern technology with world-class facilities.”