The recent move by the government to produce 4,500 tonnes of jute seeds within the next five years may seem rather exceptional. This is because there is apparently a lack of attention to seed management– no doubt a crucial factor to raise productivity of not only jute but all major crops, including vegetables. As a result, it is the excessive dependence on multinational companies and private seed suppliers that at times leads to damaging consequences in cultivation. Concerned quarters, including a number of farmers’ organisations, have been expressing their concerns in this regard for quite some time. Their suggestion seeking a suitable alternative to the prevailing practice of seed distribution reflects the need for strengthening the Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC) and entrust it with the job in order to relieve the farming community of its anxiety at the quality and compatibility of seeds.
While quality seeds in the country are in high demand, determining the right quality continues to be a serious problem often faced by farmers. Examples of adulterated seeds (either local or imported) causing havoc with cultivation are many. One of the reasons behind the unabated misdeed is obviously the absence of any mechanism for penal actions that the country should have put in place long back. Besides the adulterated or low quality seeds, there are complaints, too, about the quality of imported seeds as the yield is not found satisfactory compared to that of the country of origin. This could be due to soil conditions, fertilizer applications, irrigation and so on, which go to explain the lack of control and supervision on the types and varieties of seeds imported and their adaptability to the local soil conditions.
Quality seed is unquestionably the basic input for increasing agricultural output and thereby achieving self-sufficiency in food production. Effectiveness of other inputs like fertilizer and irrigation depends largely on good seed. Development of facilities for production of sufficient quantity of improved seeds and for making them available to farmers at appropriate time and at reasonable price has been suffering from lack of definite policy directives. The key issue is thus seed security, implying ready access for farmers and farming communities to adequate quantities of quality seeds suitable to the country’s agro-ecological conditions. It must be recorded that the country’s agricultural researchers and scientists have done a commendable job in innovating improved and diversified varieties of seeds for boosting both the staples and horticulture productivity in the past decades, despite constraints. However, to ensure that farmers are using the right variety of seeds, the challenge should be taken with all seriousness. To address all issues relating to seed distribution, formulation of a seed policy demands a priority.
It has been learnt that the ministry of agriculture has been contemplating the task for a while. Seed policies of neighbouring countries having similar agro-ecological and socio-economic settings are also taken into account. Concerned quarters hold that the seed policy has to be free from mismanagement and the whole range of activities relating to it should be strongly backed by institutional arrangements.