The Seeds Of Self Sufficiency

It Is The Rotating Crops That Pose Problems For The Small For The Small Farmers As The High Yielding Seeds For These Crops Have Neither…

The Seeds Of Self Sufficiency
By Mansoor Ahmad

been developed nor introduced through imports.

Agriculture has the potential to eradicate poverty rapidly in the rural areas as has been amply proved by the financial independence attained by the poor farmers in Sindh by harvesting hybrid rice.

There are two most successful examples of poverty alleviation. One is the Bangladeshi model of business micro loans to the poor and the other is the Chinese approach of developing high-yielding seed varieties for different crops, which eliminates poverty even more quickly.

The hybrid rice seed developed by Yuan Longping, father of hybrid rice, that has helped China work a great wonder -feeding nearly one-fifth of the world’s population with less than 9 percent of the world’s total land. In the process the farmers also tasted the pleasures of affluence.

Poverty is more pronounced in rural Pakistan as after the Ayub-era green revolution in 1960s the country failed to develop disease-resistant and high-yielding seeds for its various crops. Its average wheat yield is half that of India, its sugarcane yield is the lowest in the region, its cotton yield per acre stands at where it was in 1990, India has doubled its cotton yield. Its basmati rice (the only aromatic rice variety in the world) has been replaced in global markets by Indian long grain rice varieties mainly because the yield of our long grain basmati is less than half per acre yield of Indian long grain rice (which they also claim to be basmati).

Fortunately, a scion of Guard Group basically auto filter producers) Shahzad Malik signed an agreement with Longping firm headed by Yuan Longping. The hybrid seed was imported from China for few years. Later hybrid seed technology was transferred to Pakistan. The pioneers that introduced hybrid rice in Pakistan are exporting it to Manila (the headquarter of IRRI) and to China as well. Numerous other private sector parties also started importing hybrid rice varieties from other Chinese companies and other countries. Some have also managed to get the technology transfer and are producing the seed in Pakistan. Most of them are at advance stage of developing high yield basmati varieties as well.

At the start of the century Basmati export was higher than coarse rice. Production of coarse rice varieties has increased exponentially thanks to the use of hybrid seed introduced by private sector. Over 65 percent of rice exports are also generated by coarse varieties. In the year 2019, Pakistan produced 7.5 million tons of rice and ranked 10th in largest rice producing countries. One simply must visit rural areas in Sindh where coarse variety rice is cultivated.

The introduction of hybrid seed has transformed the landscape of the region simply because the yield from hybrid rice seeds varies from 90 maunds per acre to 125 maunds per acre. It is indeed pleasantly surprising to see the only brick houses in rice growing areas in Sindh like the villages surrounding Golachi. Hybrid seed yield is three times the production the farmers obtain from traditional IRRI-6 variants that ranges from 30-40 maunds per acre. At the going rate of Rs1,400 per maund for moonji (rice in dried leafy cover) a hybrid Seeds farmer gets a return of Rs140,000 per acre (average yield 100 maunds) for his produce.

A farmer cultivating normal IRRI-6 varieties earns Rs49,000 from one acre (average yield 35 maunds). Imagine a farmer with a landholding of 10 acres generating revenues of Rs1.4 million from hybrid rice cultivation. No other crop in Pakistan can generate such high revenues. Farmers with landholding of 10 acres are mostly poor but not the hybrid rice farmers.

This high income has enabled even the small landholders to wriggle out of poverty and say goodbye to the loan sharks that have been ruling their generations for centuries. Major rice growing areas in upper Sindh are Larkana, Dadu, Shikarpur, Qambar-Shahdadkot, Jacobabad, and Kashmore districts, while Thatta, Badin, and Tando Muhammad Khan are the rice centres of lower Sindh.

Indus delta, which consists of vast spill flats and basins; the latter are mostly irrigated. The climate is arid tropical marine with no marked seasons and is highly suited to coarse varieties. Wheat, berseem, and pulses are grown in rotation with rice. It is the rotating crops that pose problems for the small for the small farmers as the high yielding seeds for these crops have neither been developed nor introduced through imports. The yield of these crops is low and hardly covers the cost of the farmers. The high income from hybrid rice cultivation saves the day for them.

The efforts of the pioneer Shahzad Malik were recognised by the state and he was awarded with Sitara-e-Imtiaz. Most of the Seeds research and development in the developing countries has come from the state-run research institutes. It is unfortunate that government spends billions of taxpayers’ money on research without any positive result.

Private sector entrepreneurs are the only hope for the farmers who after seeing success of hybrid rice are trying to develop high-yielding varieties of wheat, vegetables, sugarcane, and cotton. Research is a laborious and time-consuming expensive process which is the reason that private sector’s progress is slow. State must step in to facilitate the private sector in this regard. High yielding varieties would not only eradicate rural poverty but also make Pakistan a food surplus country

This news was originally published at The News

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