Sharp increase in use of local varieties of cotton seeds instead of pest-prone Bt in the northern states
EXCERPT: At one time Bt seeds were available at a premium in grey market. Now traders are offering them at a discount.
Demand for Bt cotton seeds sharply down
Times of India, Jun 27, 2016
There has been a major dip in the demand for genetically modified Bt cotton seeds this kharif season. The seeds that were introduced by the US multinational Monsanto in 2002 have become mainstay of cotton farming since then. This year, there has been a sharp increase in use of local varieties of cotton seeds instead of Bt in the northern states. The area seems to have gone up but the supply of indigenous seeds did not keep pace, sources said. A similar trend was expected in other cotton growing areas of the country too.
According to the figures compiled by city-based Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR), as against 3,000 odd hectares under indigenous varieties of cotton last year, there are 72,280 hectares this season in northern states. The data was collected from states' agricultural departments, said Dr Keshav Kranthi, director of CICR, a government research agency.
Haryana is leading with 36,000 hectares, followed by Rajasthan and Punjab. A similar trend is expected in Maharashtra and Gujarat too. The overall area under cotton is expected to go down this year. Sources in this sector attributed a number of reasons for lower Bt cotton demand. Last year, there were heavy losses in north due to a white fly attack. Though makers of Bt cotton do not claim protection against white fly bug, local seeds are known to have resistance against this pest, sources said.
Bt cotton has resistance against bollworm pest, considered a major risk. Last year pink bollworm infestation was was reported in Bt seeds too. This reduced the farmers' confidence too, sources said.
Till two years ago Maharashtra had a market 1.60 crore bags of cotton seeds, of which 96% was Bt. This shrunk to 1.40 crore bags last year year. This kharif season it is expected to come down to 1.24 crore bags, almost all of it Bt seeds. Poor yields and rates to cotton had made farmers turn to other crops like pulses, maize and soyabean, said a source in a seed manufacturing company in the state.
At one time Bt seeds were available at a premium in grey market. Now traders are offering them at a discount. As against the official rate of Rs800 a bag traders, after deducting their margins, are selling it for Rs 750 to 730, a source said. Bt seeds have been sold at a discount in some previous years too.
Satish Kagliwal of National Seeds Association said there was marginal reduction in cotton growing area due to which the demand of seeds had come down. Farmers are preferring other crops instead of cotton.