Set up new rice research centre to break private sector monopoly
The government should set up a hybrid paddy research facility alongside the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) to break the private sector's monopoly on the seed market and increase rice production, according to Mohammad Masum, chairman of the Supreme Seed Company.
"Some 90 per cent of the hybrid paddy seed market in Bangladesh is controlled by the private sector as the BRRI is unable to release any competitive variety of the crop," he said in an interview with The Daily Star.
Asked how the private sector's monopoly is hurting paddy cultivation in the country, Masum said Bangladesh is far behind neighbouring nations like India and China when it comes to raising superior strains of rice have higher yields or are weather resistant.
"So, the government should establish a new research institute for hybrid seeds to challenge private producers and subsequently ensure farmers' profit by providing them with better varieties for cultivation," he added.
"So, the government should establish a new research institute for hybrid seeds to challenge private producers and subsequently ensure farmers' profit by providing them with better varieties for cultivation."
For example, farmers would benefit greatly if the government provides them with hybrid seeds that are resistant to disease at a cheaper cost.
He went on to say that the government has the required infrastructure, logistics, land, breeders (scientists) and other facilities required for advancing agricultural research in the country.
"But on the other hand, we private companies have many limitations, such as a scarcity of land and scientists. So, we cannot produce the best varieties," Masum said.
He was speaking during the launching ceremony of Supreme Seed's new hybrid paddy, called Surovi-1, at the Hotel Momo Inn in Bogura.
The new variety of paddy, which produces about one maund (37 kilogrammes) of rice per decimal, can be cultivated during the boro season and is resistant to bacterial leaf blight, the company said.
Supreme Seed, which produces and retails seeds, imported the variety from its native India through Mahyco International Private Limited.
The company sold around 32,000 tonnes of hybrid rice seeds and 1,500 tonnes of inbred varieties last year.
"We have three to four of own hybrid varieties as well," Masum said.
He then said that local seed breeders will become skilled enough to release their own hybrid varieties within the next five years, putting an end to the need for imports.
"Despite the limitations, private companies like ACI and Ispahani are boosting their rice research projects to release their own varieties," he added.
In response to a question regarding how farmers could make a decent profit from paddy farming, Masum said that is why they need high yielding seeds.
In addition, the government needs to take a number of steps to ensure better profits for growers, such as setting minimum prices for rice purchased from farmers.
"It should also increase market monitoring so that middlemen, mill owners and traders cannot make excessive profits at the expense of farmers," he added.
Stakeholders and officials of Supreme Seed and India's Mahyco International Private Limited were present at the event.