If the State government continues to fix the price for seeds in the same illogical fashion, we will quit producing seeds once and for all," warns T.R.Ammiah Raj, a seed farmer.

If the State government continues to fix the price for seeds in the same illogical fashion, we will quit producing seeds once and for all,” warns T.R.Ammiah Raj, a seed farmer.

“When all the prices are going up, seeds fetch far lower price than what they did last year. When the price of fertilizers and labour cost has skyrocketed, we get almost 20 per cent less than last year,” he laments.

Adding insult to injury, “how do you expect us to produce seeds, which demand enormous energy, attention, care and considerable risk , for 10 per cent less than the open market price of paddy ?” he asks. For the superfine variety seed (BPT 5604), called ‘Andhra Ponni’, all that the State government has fixed is only Rs.18.17 per kg including subsidy. “Last year we received Rs.22.50 per kg and now the open market price has touched Rs.20 a kg. Is it not travesty of justice,” he asks.

There are about 300 farmers in the district involved in producing paddy seeds to an extent of 700 tonnes. All over the State there are about 1,500 paddy seed farmers.

Puliyur Nagarajan, who produced five tonnes of seed last year, explains that the Agriculture Department gives “foundation seeds” to the growers for raising it to “certified seed” level.

Tamil Nadu is considered one of the best States in the country as far as seeds are concerned because of the rigorous tests they are subjected to.

An assistant seed officer visits the seed farms at various stages and only when he approves the quality of seeds in terms of germination, purity, and moisture, it reaches the seed processing farms. “While we are permitted only 13 per cent moisture content, even the Civil Supplies Corporation which procures directly from farmers accepts paddy with 17 per cent to 20 per cent moisture.

The seeds are even returned by the seed processing centres if found to have moisture higher than 13 per cent. For every per cent of the moisture going down, the paddy weight declines by one kg per quintal,” the farmers say.

They point out that irrespective of the quality of the seed, “the seed processing centres (Manachanallur, Sirugamani, and Nerkuppai in Tiruchi district) reject a minimum of five kg of paddy per quintal. For two tonnes of paddy seeds, the rejection may be as high as 250 kg,” they contend.

“Whatever is rejected invariably goes to our quadrupeds.”

The major problem with seeds is that the entire process should be done by hand. Besides, the entire quantum produced should be mature.

It is the certified seeds that give better output – at least 20 per cent more than the ordinary seeds. It is not just paddy seeds that are subjected to this ignominious treatment. The condition of black gram, another major produce of this district, is no better.

The price fixed for black gram seed is only Rs.34.50 per kg this year and farmers have demanded at least Rs.45. It is raised as “follow crop” of paddy in at least about 10,000 acres.

This has got to be raised between “Thai 1 to 10 – between January 14 and 23.It is such a sensitive crop that even a day’s delay beyond the period would bring down the output”.

The subsidy to be given by the National Seed Corporation, which is about Rs.15 per kg, is yet to reach the farmers.

The growers are extremely unhappy that the Department of Statistics is relying on an outdated formula. “Instead of taking the entire year’s average, why should it not take 10 or 15 top prices obtained throughout the year and fix a price?”

When contacted, the department officials refused to give any information except admitting that the open market price is higher than that is given to seed farmers.” We do not want to deny the farmers their due. It has to be taken up at the highest level and hence takes time.”