IFFCO may lead a new seed co-op to capture the ₹40,000-crore Indian market
A new seed co-operative called Bharatiya Sahakari Beej Samit (BSBS) is expected to begin operations this month, potentially syphoning off significant money from the private sector in the ₹36,000-crore domestic seed industry. The Union Cabinet approved the formation of a multi-State seed co-operative society, as well as a national export society and a national cooperative society for organic products, earlier this week.
The co-operative will be housed within IFFCO’s corporate headquarters. The co-operative has been officially tasked with exploring the potential in the untapped ₹40,000-crore seed market. Analysts say that when BSBS starts doing business, it will enter a market dominated by the private sector, while farmers will use some of their own harvests as seeds.
₹500 crores in capital
‘The government is assisting its formation, and there will be no direct shareholding. ‘All 63,000 primary agricultural credit societies (PACS) would be tapped to retail the seeds that the new multi-state cooperative will sell,’ said Gyanesh Kumar, Secretary, Cooperation.
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He stated that BSBS will be established with an authorized share capital of ₹500 crore and an initial paid-up share capital of ₹250 crore, which will be shared equally by IFFCO, Kribhco, National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd. (NAFED), the National Co-operative Development Corporation (NCDC), and National Dairy Development Board (NDDB). PACS and other co-operatives will hold the remaining ₹250 crore when they become members.
Sources say that IFFCO may be able to act as an anchor promoter because it has a large reach through a network of thousands of local cooperatives.
The BSBS board will add the National Seeds Corporation and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) as expert members. The government has asked ICAR to help the new co-op get up and running by giving it breeder seeds and technological help.
Officials said that although 787 million quintals of seeds are needed every year, only 372 million quintals are available through organized retail. This means that farmers could get another 415 million quintals from their own crops and from neighboring farms. BSBS will go after untapped potential by helping to improve the seeds from planting to harvesting, testing, and branding. Farmers will profit from increased productivity as a result of this.
‘It has been observed that farmers’ yields rise by 15-20% when they switch from farm-saved seed (FSS) to certified seeds,’ Kumar stated. The new co-op will also focus on building infrastructure for the production, marketing, and distribution of seeds, including native seeds, so that its members can make better seeds and make more of them.
‘It will also identify natural seeds of indigenous plant variants, including but not limited to seeds of foodgrains, fruits, and vegetables, in order to develop a system for their preservation, conservation, breeding, production, distribution, and promotion, as well as all other activities required,’ an official said, adding that the BSBS will not enter the hybrids market, which is dominated by the private sector, including multinational corporations.
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The official said that BSBS will try to help as many as 29 crore members of cooperative societies, mostly small farmers and people with low incomes in rural areas, get quality inputs for little or no cost. According to the official, many of the Central seed distribution systems may also be channeled through BSBS.
Noting that there are 170 testing laboratories for certifying seeds, the official stated that BSBS will establish testing laboratories and conduct tests on various seeds, either on its own or in collaboration with agricultural universities and research institutes, to ensure a better quality of cereal, pulses, oilseed, fodder, and vegetable seeds.