Challenges of Seed Producers in Punjabi Farming (ਪੰਜਾਬੀ ਖੇਤੀਬਾੜੀ ਵਿਚ ਬੀਜ ਉਤਪਾਦਕਾਂ ਦੀਆਂ ਮੁਸ਼ਕਿਲਾਂ)

Farming is such a profession, for which one must have a special spirit to undertake it. There’s an English proverb: I stand erect, restless and keen, willing to fight and willing to dream. So we would have to realize to stand on our own and to envision a dream to be successful, only then we can be successful. Though the hurdles are increasing with each day. The biggest hurdle is the shortage of labour. We can be helped in this labour crisis, like the MGNREGA scheme by the Government, it pays daily wages, Government has assured a job for 100 days for each daily wager. If that scheme could be integrated with the farming, it could be very beneficial for the farming sector. By doing so, it would be a direct help to the farmer. Secondly, the stress that we go through in not being able to manage our crop in a timely manner especially when we have the harvesting and sowing seasons if we get some help (from MGNREGA) during those days. If the Government just wants to distribute money the worker won’t be able to show any work progress and no productive projects would get completed in the villages. So, in a profession like farming, which is the life-line or a backbone of our daily food and such necessities The Government has very seriously launched schemes like National Food Security Mission which is run by the Central Government, for which it provides many subsidies too, but they have ignored one thing there too, as the subsidy is for the producer or a farmer and the other organizations that come in between they exploit us both. If you set aside these organizations and award the benefits directly to the beneficiary Can you give an example? Like, I am a seed producer I am a farmer seed producer. I produce certified seeds which meet high standards and are grown with a great amount of care and hard work. It is only obtained after checking the source and then multiplied after roguing and determining the uniformity of plants. If a farmer uses such seeds, he can get a better production. Even the grower deserves to get something extra. It is expensive for the farmers. Because after the grading and sorting, 25% of the seed goes out. We have to sell it off at a lesser price. The rest 75% of the seed which is as good as gold, and must fetch a price of gold. The farmer needs it, and the producer also needs for his future production. What are the obstacles, is it the Government subsidies or the system here is such which hinders the process? The system is such that the organizations come in between. Even they are related to seed production but they are patronized by the Government They buy seed from us we have to supply our seeds through tenders and the traders also put in their bid in the tenders for seeds The traders quote the prices as per their trade practices We too have to quote within the same price range. We don’t even recover our costs properly and the traders sometimes supply spurious seeds to the farmers. We often get complaints from the farmers after buying seeds from the Government which is not good quality As we save some seed for ourselves, so they are happy buying it from us even at a higher price. because he is getting many advantages. As they have brought the traders into this process of seed production no one knows what exactly are they doing? They promoting the wheat as a seed. The other bigger corporations like Monsanto under the WTO are gaining control over the seed market. Would it mean that the bigger corporations would finish the small seed farmers? They won’t be able to do much in the composite varieties. But in the high-yield varieties, which we call a hybrid, they have bought patents of such varieties. We have to pay the price of that patent. Gradually, when the composite varieties would phase out and only hybrids would be in circulation then our dependency would shift on them. We would be at their mercy. Whatever they would give us, only that we would sow and harvest. In a way, we’d totally be crippled. How do you see the future of Punjab farming? A farmer, by himself, can’t make his future. He’d need help from the State. As we see there’s a repetition in agricultural festivals. Now they have started interactive seminars where they can listen to our concerns. There’s too much rush in the festivals, we can only watch it but can’t achieve anything concrete there. There should be some provision within the universities for our problems there are some call-centers though sometimes you get a good response from there but at times it is of no use. If we have any difficulties, we should be able to go the university and interact with them directly Let’s say about the seeds, they tell us that such is the kits and such is the seed. But when we ask where can we buy it from? They say, they don’t know. Sometimes, we receive their text messages to buy such and such seed, or vegetable seed But those seeds can’t be made available to us. Then we again have to approach those expensive corporations. They have small sachets with only 10-15 seeds. How much area would we cover with that, and how expensive is that for us. It means you have to go back to them. If an educated farmer like you cannot approach the PAU the common persons won’t be able to approach these universities, what would they do? They can do it too, but if the Government makes an effort the officers sitting here at our division level, they should be instructed about the local farmers about how many workshops are they conducting for the farmers Is the Government organizing any smaller exhibition plots at the district levels and make the local farmers participate in it. If the end result, after a year, is a joint one The farmer would be encouraged by that. If the farmer is asked to experiment on his own land, he’d be scared. Firstly, the farmer has leased the land and if you ask to experiment with a new seed if we tell him to try it out, he would step back. He would be scared to lose his regular income. So he would again go back to the wheat-paddy cycle. As those are cash crops because the Government has given us the assured price of Rs.13-1400 /Quintal It is such a surety which doesn’t allow us to come out of it. That’s why we repeatedly return to it. If we get a support price for other crops… for example, we grow mentha here, we produce it, we have a distillation plant here if we get the uniformity of prices by any means it always is in demand in the pharmaceutical industry and the perfumery industry needs it too but we have to sell it on our own there’s no support, even if we have to buy its seed, we don’t get it We experiment with it at our own level but the farmer had been successful in that But now due to the international prices or other reasons, we are not getting its due price in Punjab or outside Has there been a foreign competition in mentha? We get foreign competition from China. Have they made something synthetic? Yes, from the last 2 or 3 years synthetic mentha is neither found in the US nor Canada UK has a negligible quantity China had started it. Aping China, India too has started making synthetic mentha Now the problem is that they are selling the blend of synthetic and other menthas It will soon become an international problem, as the prices of menthas crashed this year Now they take samples and have increased the scrutiny of our produce to ensure no mixing in the product That’s the impression these days which has affected the price of mentha we were supposed to get we have stored the mentha from last year, and this year’s yield will also stay with us Until the spurious mentha is not finished from the market, we won’t get due prices for mentha I am getting the impression that farming of any kind is problematic and… It has become more challenging. You have identified the problems, what solutions would you propose to amend it? I would suggest that the officers who are monitoring the agricultural sector Government should somehow involve them in this process They should monitor the buyers and the problems arising out of it because we only get to know at the end about the price we would get we get the alarm very late There shouldn’t be such problems. If they have to allow synthetic, we should know it beforehand so we can close our plants and do something else We don’t want to get trapped, as once we enter this fiield we have no other option we have to accumulate our yield year after year which mostly incur losses and at times get us profits too Thank you very much, Mr. Sarwinder Singh, for your insights. Wish you all the best. Thank you, thank you.

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