Seed makers seek free movement of agri-inputs ahead of kharif season

Manufacturers of seeds have requested the government to ensure transportation of key farm inputs so that there is no roadblock due to the measures being taken to handle corona virus. Since the next three months are critical for farmers to prepare for kharif season, the seed industry has sought government’s help to ensure there is adequate production, processing, packing and transportation, and timely supply of seeds to meet demands.

“The government must support uninterrupted and high-speed operation of seed factories especially in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The government may consider allowing offices, which provide critical services like laboratory testing and issuance of phyto-sanitary permits, to remain open with a minimal workforce,” said Ram Kaundinya, director general of Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII). The seed industry employs a large workforce from March to May for seed-processing, packing and transportation.

Speaking to Financial Express, he said the Indian seed industry was ready to deliver adequate quantity of good quality seeds to farmers and secure their income while adhering and implementing national and local health directives to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Seed manufacturers are adopting high levels of health precautions and hygiene measures for the safety of their office and factory staff and should be allowed to work, he added.

Several states have clamped down on movement of people by ordering complete lockdown in 80 districts while the Centre has suspended train and flights services until March 31. The entire National Capital Region of Delhi has been closed except for some essential services.

In a letter to the Union agriculture ministry and various state governments, FSII has said that seeds should be allowed access to quarantine checkpoints to ensure continuous production of staple and essential food items. There should be opening of ‘green lanes’ at national and state toll booths, check-posts and on highways where agricultural input delivery vehicles can pass unhindered and are not subjected to roadblocks which might have been put up to restrict movement of people and other materials to fight the virus.

The months of April and May are very critical for the supply of seeds for timely sowing of kharif crops such as maize, soyabean, paddy, arhar, jowar, bajra and cotton, said Shivendra Bajaj, executive director of FSII.

Shekhar Ghosh is a communications consultant and and former journalist, who has edited and written for publications such as like Business India, Business Standard, Business Today and Outlook.

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