Covid wave sows trouble for seed firms
Industry fears disruptions from curbs on movements, wants renewal of licences via video-conferencing
For the ₹20,000-crore seed industry, April and May are the most important months for positioning the seeds with local dealers ahead of the kharif sowing season beginning June.
That’s the time when they get seeds from the farmers, process and treat them at their factories before packaging and dispatching to different parts of the country.
The Covid-19 second wave has begun to impact the whole process, with one State after the other announcing restrictions on people’s movements and partial lockdowns.
The seed-producing areas and companies are mostly based in the South. After procuring and treating them for quality, firms distribute the lots to different parts of the country ahead of sowing season, the National Seed Association of India (NSAI) has said.
Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra are the seed production hubs of the country.
National Seed Association of India President M Prabhakara Rao wants the Union and State governments to step in quickly and announce guidelines, giving some exemptions for seed companies from local restrictions.
The seed industry, which is manpower-intensive, is also worried about labourers leaving for their home-towns, worried over the fast spreading Covid-19 infections.
“About 10-15 per cent of them have already left for their villages. We need manpower to process, package and load them on to trucks for dispatch,” Mithun Chand, Executive Director of Kaveri Seeds, told BusinessLine.
The Federation of Seed Industry of India wants the government to automatically renew the seed licences for six months. It has also urged the State governments to quickly ratify new additions to the list of seeds. The governments grant permissions for various seeds for a year. The companies are supposed to get them renewed ahead of the season. With the government machinery slowing down due to Covid-19 impact, the industry fears delays in getting the renewals.
The NSAI wants State governments to approve the hybrids and give licences for the season via video conferencing.
The seed firms anticipate cost overruns of 5-6 per cent as labourers travel back to their home-towns. “It happened last year. Going by the sharp increase in the Covid cases and subsequent restrictions, we might end up spending as much again this year,” a top executive of a seed company said.