The current aman paddy cultivation season has come as a blessing for public and private seed producers and marketers as farmers, encouraged by higher prices of boro, bought a bigger amount of seeds this time to maximise profits by increasing harvest.
Public seed producer Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC) and private firms sold nearly 32,000 tonnes of improved and hybrid seeds of paddy during the aman season, a whopping 43 per cent rise from a year earlier, according to top seed marketers.
Farmers have invested more in seeds in the hope of higher yields because they will earn some extra money even if they can get an additional half a tonne of rice, said FH Ansarey, managing director and chief executive of ACI Agribusiness, a division of ACI.
Aman is the biggest crop in terms of acreage as farmers grow the staple grain on more than 55 lakh hectares on average taking advantage of the monsoon.
Boro paddy, harvested in summer, is the second-biggest crop in terms of cultivation area.
From a yield perspective, boro is the principal crop accounting for 55 per cent of the total annual rice production, followed by aman at 38 per cent and aus the rest.
During this aman season, the agriculture ministry has targeted to ensure cultivation on 59 lakh hectares, including more than three lakh hectares of sown or broadcast aman area.
Farmers grew paddy on 58.8 lakh hectares during the aman season last year, according to an estimate by the Department of Agricultural Extension. During the aman season, 188,000 tonnes of seeds are required, according to Md Azim Uddin, chief seed technologist at the seed wing of the agriculture ministry.
Farmers generally use the seeds they grow and preserve for cultivation during this season, with BADC and the private sector seed sellers meeting only one-fifth the total requirement.
Apart from the higher prices of paddy this year, farmers' interest in using seeds marketed by the organised sector increased because of subsidy given by the government for seeds sold by the state-run BADC.
The government provided Tk 10 for each kilogram of improved seeds sold by BADC for the current season to encourage food producers to use certified seeds, which provide 15-20 per cent higher yield than the conventionally stored seeds, according to agriculture officials.
"We don't have any unsold seeds this year," said Mostafizur Rahman, general manager of the agro services division at BADC.
The state agency sold nearly 21,000 tonnes of improved seeds during this aman season, up from 15,000 tonnes in the previous season. Last year, BADC had 3,000 tonnes of unsold seeds during the aman season.
"Farmers show increasing interest in quality seeds when they get better prices for their crops," Rahman said, adding that the germination percentage of BADC seeds is higher than those preserved by farmers.
Rahman urged the government to provide subsidy for seeds in the coming boro cultivation season as well.
"This will make farmers happy. At the same time, production will also increase," he added.
The demand for seeds in the next boro season would go up further if prices of rice continue to remain high, said Mohammad Masum, chairman of Supreme Seed Company.
Since the supply of seeds will also be higher, the prices are unlikely to increase, he added.
During the boro season, 140,000 tonnes of seeds are required and the organised sector supplies nearly two-thirds the total demand, according to Ansarey.
"We have good preparations for the next boro season," he added.
Bangladesh has a seed market of Tk 1,000 crore with 30 companies in operation, according to Masum.