The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa agriculture department has announced a discount in the prices of certified and basic wheat seeds for the benefit of the farming community.
Officials say the price of certified seeds has been reduced to Rs1,780 per 50kg from Rs1,850 and that of the basic variety to Rs1,900 from Rs1,950 last year.
“The discounted standard high-yielding seeds, approved by the provincial seeds council, will be supplied to farmers on first come first served basis. Growers have been advised to use these varieties to get better yields,” an official said.
“Wheat growers should use Pirsabaq-04, Hashim-08, Suren-10, Ata Habib-10, Sahar-2006, Uqab, Zam, KT-2000, Batoor, Fakhre Sarhad and Janbaz for irrigated lands and Pir sabaq-04 and 05, Hashim 08, Barsat-10 and Tatara for rain-fed areas in the province.
“Cultivation of substandard seeds —Shafaq, Bakhar, Abdus sattar, Bakhtawar-92, KT-2003 and Watan — which have the least or no resistance against reddish malaise, should be avoided,” he said.
“These seeds will be available in the model farm services centres and the offices of district agriculture officers. Any MFSC could get any amount of seeds it wants to buy from the official stock,” the official said.
But limited membership and inadequate revolving funds for buying inputs makes it impossible for the MFSCs to help most of its members.
Ahmad Saeed, chief planning officer, ministry of agriculture, says farmers can get seeds on one phone call.
“Farmers are advised not to buy substandard or fake seeds and report to district officers, field workers of the department or the Federal Seeds Certification and Registration Department (FSC&RD) about those dealing in fake seeds so that action could be taken against them under the Seeds Act.
“Under the act, those dealing in fake or substandard seeds are arrested, tried in a court and, if found guilty, are fined and jailed with their dealership cancelled.
“Any seed which does not have FSC&RD tag with information about its contents and uses, be it basic or certified, and is not sealed, is a fake seed. The agriculture department and the FSC&RD have already cracked down against substandard seeds and confiscated a large quantity of it from the market,” he added.
“The provincial requirement of wheat seed is around 80,000 tons. The government provides around 6,000-7,000 tons through official channels; the rest is supplied by private sector, while almost 70 per cent of farmers here use their own stocks.
“The farmers grow wheat on around 0.75 million hectares. Its acreage has not increased for lack of irrigation water due to insufficient infrastructure, irregular rains and delayed cane harvesting,” says Mr Saeed.
“The department needs to replace 10 per cent of common seeds with basic or certified seeds. It has currently surpassed that benchmark.
“The department has developed over 6,200 tons of basic and certified seeds and has supported the private sector to produce over 7,000 tons of standard seeds. We have brought down seed prices for the benefit of farmers. We also provide free seeds, fertiliser and other inputs to registered progressive growers for their demonstration plots,” he said.
“The flood- and militancy-hit farmers in the province are also provided free seeds and other inputs by the provincial disaster management authority and international donors. All these measures are expected to increase wheat acreage slightly, if not by a big margin,” he hoped.
When asked why do growers go for substandard or fake seeds, Abdur Rahim Khan, a farmer leader, says cultivators do so mainly for two reasons. “Most growers, mainly the poor, don’t have cash with them. So they buy seeds on deferred payment which is not the case with certified seeds sale,” he said.
Khan opined that opening of village or union council-based farm inputs depots would solve this problem. “But then it requires huge financial allocation to the agriculture sector. Currently, the department receives less than two per cent of the provincial development programme,” he lamented.
At present, more than 500 registered national and five multinational seed companies are allowed to market seeds.