‘GM crop technologies may help boost farm income’

Kaveri Seed Company, the only seed firm listed on Indian stock exchanges, is the market leader in the southern part of the country, besides Maharashtra. The seed producer’s chairman and managing director G.V. Bhaskar Rao says product performance is the only means to earn farmer loyalty, which also enables the company to win market share from competitors. Edited excerpts:

What has been the impact of the monsoons over the last two cycles. What do you think will be the impact this year?

After two years of drought, India witnessed normal monsoon in kharif 2017, returning optimism to the rural sector and improving farmer sentiment. It was one of the best years for cotton. Though the average rainfall pattern during this year was normal, rainfall distribution was uneven. Monsoon has arrived in time for kharif 2018 and rainfalls are expected to be normal, according to IMD forecasts.

What do you think about cotton acreages in India and the way forward for cotton farmers?

FY 2017-18 was one of the best years for cotton in terms of acreages. We expect overall industry acreages to be 10% sideways for the next five years. Also, cotton price continues be very lucrative and cotton remains the highest ROI crop in India. Kaveri Seeds will maintain leadership in southern India and will make meaningful entry in northern India as well.

What are the various crops farmers are concentrating on and how does Kaveri Seeds help them achieve a good yield?

Cotton, maize, rice, sunflower, pearl millet and vegetables account for a majority of the revenues of the Indian hybrid seed industry. We have actively undertaken focussed training of field assistants for educating farmers across geographies on integrated crop management, advanced agronomic practices, pest resistance techniques, and product knowledge, to increase yields and income.

How do you see Kaveri Seeds contributing to the betterment of farmers?

We have been, over the past several years, providing farmers with high quality high yield seeds which has helped reduce their wastages, improve crop yields and income. We participate in and sponsor agricultural fairs at state and district levels aimed at disseminating knowledge on integrated crop management, new technologies, better farming techniques, advanced agronomic practices, pest resistance techniques and product knowledge to increase yield and income among farmers.

After the cotton revolution, what do you think would be the next big game-changer for farmers?

Rice is the largest crop under cultivation in India and is the staple food for a large population. Rice hybrid seed is the most under-penetrated category in India with only 6% penetration. Maize is the most widely grown crop worldwide. India is the world’s sixth largest producer and fifth largest consumer of maize. Maize acreage has grown in India over the years as it is highly adaptable to different seasons, requires less water, and is easy to grow with a good commodity price.

How do you see the future of hybridisation of seeds in India?

Rice, maize and vegetable crops are highly under-penetrated in terms of hybridisation. India’s increasing population, arable land and willingness of the farmer to adopt newer technologies provides multifold opportunities in rice, maize and vegetables.

What are the steps you have taken to address the Pink Bollworm challenge affecting crops?

The issue is not restricted to hybrids, but farming practices the farmer adopts. So, we have increased farmer awareness programmes to prevent the impact of Pink Bollworm. We are educating farmers to be proactive and take preventive measures rather than reactive measures.

How do you see the use of technology impacting farm output?

Technology plays a key role in increasing farm output by protecting against pest attacks, eliminating wastages and increasing yield. Over the years, we have been increasing spends on R&D to produce better quality seeds year after year. Farmers remain under stress as harvesting costs keep escalating, Mechanical harvesting and HDP remain viable solutions. There are also many other genetically modified crop technologies awaiting government approvals, which will increase the size of the seed market and significantly increase farmer income.

How do you compete with other MNCs in your sector?

MNCs have been part of the agri market in India since five decades and Kaveri Seeds has been successfully competing with both MNCs and local players since the last three decades.

Product performance is the only means to earn farmer loyalty, and the superior performance of Kaveri products over the years across crops have enabled the company to take market share away from competitors.

Farmers remain under stress as harvesting costs keep escalating