Agri Business

Covid-19 lockdown: Seed industry demands easy inter-State movement

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on March 23, 2020 Published on March 23, 2020

The Indian seed industry on Monday urged the Centre and State governments to make inter-State movement of seeds and other agri inputs easier, as the months between March and May are crucial for preparing seeds for forthcoming kharif season. As a precautionary measure to contain the spread of Covid-19, which has so far killed seven people in the country and infected around 450 others, many State governments have declared a lockdown and closed borders, except for essential commodities.

Though seeds fall under said essential commodities under the Essential Commodities Act, the letter issued by the Cabinet Secretary to all State governments on Sunday has not explicitly mentioned the seeds sector. Major seeds industry associations – the National Seed Association of India (NSAI) and the Federation of Seed Industry of India – independently wrote to the government to ensure the movement of seeds.

Hassle-free movement

“Lakhs of acres of seed crop is planted in the rabi season, which is now at the flowering to harvesting stage. The quality control and production supervisory teams need to monitor the pollination, pre-harvest and harvest operations. Similarly, the quality assurance teams need to conduct inspections, carry out grow out test operations as well as laboratory testing. Finally, all the seeds need to be processed, packed and distributed across the country so that they reach through millions of retailers to the needy farmers,” NSAI Executive Director RK Trivedi said in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sanjay Agarwal.

Apart from allowing staff and workers of seed companies to continue functioning, the letter urged the government to permit hassle-free movement of seed crops from farmers’ fields to processing centres, between different processing centres, and from processing centres to distributors and retailers so that farmers can get seeds on time for kharif sowing. The NSAI wanted the government to issue circulars to all States clarifying this.

‘Special food lanes’

In another statement, the FSII — which represents both domestic and multinational seed firms — sought government support to ensure timely and uninterrupted global and domestic movement of seeds and other farm inputs.

“There should be an opening of ‘green lanes’/special food lanes at national and State toll booths, check-posts and on highways where food and agricultural input delivery vehicles can pass unhindered and are not subjected to roadblocks which might have been put up to restrict movement of people and other materials to fight the virus. The special food lanes will allow smooth passage of all vehicles carrying essential food commodities and agri-inputs,” it said.

“The government must support uninterrupted and high-speed operation of seed factories, especially in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The government may consider allowing offices, which provide critical services like laboratory testing and issuance of phytosanitary permits, to remain open with a minimal workforce,” said FSII Director General Ram Kaundinya.

Published on March 23, 2020
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