India can become a hub for seed exports
India has achieved considerable expertise in seed production. The Indian seed industry is worth ₹18,000 crore and growing. It has established seed production villages through decades of training and capacity building among seed-growing farmers in these villages. Most of the hybrid seed production is located in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat.
Seed production is more profitable for the farmers than producing a regular commercial crop. Seed companies supply parent seed and technical advice to farmers and buy back the produced seed in a closed loop system backed by contracts. Banks find it secure to extend loans to seed growers because of the buyback arrangements.
Most of the seed used by farmers in India is produced in India and hence stands as a great example of Make in India.
Currently, our seed exports are less than ₹1,000 crore per annum. Annual global seed trade is $14 billion. India definitely has a potential to capture a 10 per cent share which is $1.4 billion or ₹10,000 crore by 2028.
India has a well developed seed industry, varied agro-climatic conditions, seed production expertise, seed quality management systems and the necessary infrastructure to exploit this opportunity, similar to other countries like Chile, Argentina and South Africa.
They dominate the global seed trade by positioning themselves as suppliers of reliable quality seeds as per delivery schedules. The seed export from India can increase if we diversify the seed production to other crops from existing rice, maize and some vegetables.
There are three categories of seed exports possible and each one needs a separate policy support.
A company located outside India gives production orders to an Indian seed company and supplies parent seed for production in India. The Indian company exports the production back to them. This will be possible if varieties for custom production are exempted from registration, which will be mandatory under the new Seed Act, as they are meant only for export.
South Africa and some other countries undertake custom production of GM seeds. We too should have a special category of approval for such GM seeds by GEAC with minimum data requirements.
Because of our agro-climatic conditions we can undertake production of GM Corn and Cotton for export purposes.
The arrival of parent seed into India and produced seed from India for export should be freely allowed without any delays at ports, based on a separate documentation.
Although we have IP protection for plant varieties through the PPV&FR Act in India, the practical enforcement is not up to the mark.
To encourage custom production, we need to provide IP protection for parent seed that is coming into the country for custom production purposes. This custom seed production will not happen unless this assurance is given to the company ordering the production.
Currently, India is undertaking custom production in vegetable seeds. India can become a global leader in custom production of vegetables seeds for other countries, a position currently occupied by China.
Financial incentives are required for vegetables seed exporters to construct Green Houses which increase certainty of production and meeting export obligations without fail.
These are varieties developed in India by domestic companies purely for export. These varieties can go to other tropical markets globally.
Such seed movement from India will require approval from the National Biodiversity Authority which should be ensured in a time-bound fashion and without delays. In addition, export formalities and documentation should be smooth and quick.
There is a great opportunity to develop external markets for export of vegetables seeds developed in India. This will need investments in market development activities in other countries. Financial incentives may be provided to companies to undertake such activities as it could be an expensive process.
For both markets
These are varieties developed in India or outside for both domestic sales and exports. They fall into the regular category of varieties that need mandatory registration under the new Seed Act. The only support needed here is the time bound approval process from NBA for export of Indian seed varieties.
In addition to the above policy support needed for the three categories of seed varieties, a general policy framework is needed for encouraging seed exports.
A National Seed Export Promotion Council may be set up with representatives from Central and State governments, industry, seed technologists and others, which can work for establishing India as a seed export hub and facilitating the process of achieving ₹10,000 crore export revenue by 2028 or earlier.
The board should aim to work with the government to get a national policy on developing seed exports established which makes it a smooth process across several stakeholders like Central/State governments, NBA, GEAC, ports, etc.
Seeds conforming to international quality standards should be produced and processed. Quality control laboratories with recognition from International Seed Testing Association should be established in each State and in each export zone.
Dry port facilities for quick movement of seed, closer to production centres.
For example, Bengaluru, Coimbatore, Hyderabad, Aurangabad, Ahmedabad, etc., should be given such a facility.
Each port should have warehouses suitable for seed storage, seed quality testing facilities recognised globally (third party private laboratories), seed export documentation and phytosanitary certification agencies, plant quarantine facilities and similar support mechanism.
A special cell in the Ministry of Agriculture that deals with export promotion and facilitation of efficient disposal of export permits, import permits and Pest Risk Analysis.
A predictable policy regarding export of seeds — clarity between grain export and seed export; frequent ban on exports of rice and similar commodities due to confusion between export of grain and seed affects export schedules.
Setting up export zones with necessary infrastructure closer to dry ports, where export oriented processing and packing facilities and quality laboratories can be set up by private industry.
Financial incentives and funding support for seed exporters which will help them in competing with Chile, Argentina, South Africa and other major exporters.
If we get the above support and take a strategic approach, we will be able to harness this area of enormous potential.
Source: The Hindu Business Line