Farmers at their wits’ end over fake seeds

Hundreds of quintals of spurious cotton, chilli seeds flooding Guntur markets

June 29, 2019 08:49 pm | Updated 08:49 pm IST

For years, cotton has remained a lifeline for farmers in Guntur district.

Cotton is cultivated in 6.5 lakh acres in the district, and with the average yield crossing 15 quintals, it is the preferred commercial crop. Chilli is also a

hot favourite as it has always brought good returns for farmers.

However, the last two decades have seen a slow downturn in fortunes, with farmers struggling with ever-increasing debt.

Pandora’s box

What started as the sale of loose cotton seed by farmers in the market soon attained monstrous proportions as fake seeds began flooding the market. The floodgates opened in 2000 when BT cotton appeared on the scene after the liberalisation of Indian markets. The hybrid cotton seeds made by Monsanto ushered in a revolution of sorts.

The first BG seeds were sold for ₹1,600 (450 grams), and later, the prices were brought down after a protracted legal battle during the tenure of former Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy to ₹950 (450 grams). The BG-2 seeds were launched in 2006-2007, and the State government refused permission to sell the seed, but the seed continued to be sold in the black market. BG-3 cotton seed was launched in 2009 which opened a Pandora’s box. Hundreds of quintals of fake cotton and chilli seeds cultivated in nondescript villages and packed in attractive foils found their way into the market.

Even as successive State governments have failed to rein in the companies pumping fake seed into the markets, farmers continue to plod on braving the losses. Sadly, many farmers have ended their lives due to mounting debt. In Guntur district, more than 140 farmers ended their lives in the last five years.

Unassuming hero

In a district infamous for being a hub of fake seeds, A. Anjaneyulu, a messenger working in the Department of Agriculture, has been single-handedly busting gangs selling fake seeds, fertilisers and pesticides.

Mr. Anjaneyulu is known to have an uncanny knack for detecting fake seeds or fertilizers from a distance of 50 metres. Beginning his day at about 5 a.m., Mr. Anjaneyulu rides his motorcycle to reach the bus complexes and parcel offices. Wearing a shirt and a lungi, the man sports an unassuming appearance but is ruthless when it comes to weeding out fake seeds.

He is known to make out if a seed is fake by merely looking at it. "After reading the stories of farmer suicides, I realised that many of them die unable to bear the losses due to spurious seeds and pesticides. I developed

the skill to sniff out fake seeds during the tenure of then Regional Vigilance and Enforcement Officer, Jeevananda Sharma, in 1987 and since then, I have busted fake seed and pesticides worth ₹2.5 crore," said Mr. Anjaneyulu.

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