Special Correspondent

HYDERABAD: Seed manufacturers, at a consultative meet here on Saturday, wanted the Government control over pricing to go, terming it a retrograde step that would take the country back by 20 years.

At a press conference, National Seeds Association of India (NSAI) president Uday Singh said regulation on pricing would mean a financial burden that would hit hard the companies that were investing heavily on research and development. It would impact the smaller companies first and the multi-nationals later, he said.

Asserting that the reduced spend on R & D on seeds would have a cascading impact on India's efforts in achieving food security, he wanted price safeguards incorporated in the Seed Bill, 2004, that has already been introduced in Parliament. In the last two decades, the seed industry had contributed to higher yields through R & D, production and distribution of hybrid seeds. The production of corn and Bt cotton alone had contributed over Rs. 45,000 crore today, Mr. Singh said.

The price control was resulting in shortage of seed production, said M. Harish Reddy, NSAI's general secretary. From 4.5 crore packets of cotton seed (450 grams) produced in the year 2004, he said it was not just at about 3 crore packets. “Next year we will find it tougher because we simply cannot motivate seed growers to supply at reduced prices,” he said.

Ram Kaundinya, chairman, Special Interest Group on ‘Agriculture Biotechnology of the Association of Biotech-led Enterprises (ABLE) said Indian farmers today used mobile phones to access real-time weather and information on commodities and pricing. “We must ensure that Indian farmers can access cutting-edge technology and quality seed to help them compete globally.”

Paresh Verma, an NSAI member made a presentation outlining how an enabling atmosphere was needed and operating freedom for the industry in a situation where market forces determine fair value and prices.

Coupled with the competition, with about 50 companies involved in growing cotton seed alone, farmers would get value for money, he argued.