THE Khyber Pakhtunkhwa agriculture department plans to install several seed processing and treating plants to augment its existing capacity of seeds preparation for various crops.
A senior official of said the department had purchased seed graders, four seed treating plants and three 20kv power generators.
The department has also imported machinery for measuring moisture contents in seeds of different crops.
“The machinery will be provided to the districts where wheat is procured in bulk from registered growers and is used for grading and treating seeds. The graded healthy and cleansed seed will be provided to growers by the provincial seeds industry,” said Ismail Jan, director seeds, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
To a question, the official said the seed grading technology was meant for processing and grading seeds of all crops like maize, rice, oilseeds, pulses and vegetables. Only the sifter was needed to be changed and affixed to the machine for grading different crop seeds, he said.
Bannu, Kohat, Swat, Charsadda, Mansehra and Timergara would get the processing plants while Peshawar, Dera Ismail Khan and Mardan would receive the seed treating plants and generators.
“Peshawar, DIK and Mardan already possess seeds processing plants. The rest of the districts would transport their seeds to one of these plants for the grading of their seeds. This would however entail high transportation costs for the districts and consume a lot of time owing to work pressure and loadshedding.”
“Local processing plants in more districts along with generators would help prepare bulk seeds, save time, reduce transportation cost and make quality seeds available to the department for timely onward distribution to growers,” he added.
The DIK plant produced bulk of wheat seeds and majority of registered growers, who produce certified seeds for grading purposes, were located there. It used to process over 2,000 metric tons of wheat seeds.
According to the official, how economical this new technology would be is evident from the fact that last year the government had spent around Rs7.3mn on wheat transportation to distant seed processing plants. “Now the department has purchased processing plants with the same amount. The technology will recover its cost in one year and would help save millions in the years to come,” he added.
Even after setting up these seeds processing plants, only nine of the 25 districts in KP will have the seed grading plants and the rest would depend on them for these facilities.
When asked why the technology was not provided to the remaining districts like Abbotabad, Nowshera, Karak, Laki Marwat etc, the official attributed it to meagre funds. “The plant in Mansehra would process seeds from the adjoining districts of Abbotabad, Haripur etc and the plant at Kohat or Bannu would grade seeds for Karak and Laki Marwat,” he said.
According to the official, the KP seeds industry in the past used to treat the seeds to guard against diseases, pests and weeds but then the process was stopped. With the new seed treating plants, the department has once again entered in the era of seed treatment. This would produce hygienic seeds, he said.
The official said the seed industry had procured around 5,000 metric tons of certified seeds from growers this year which would produce around 4000 metric tons of graded seeds after processing. The seed is kept for one year in stocks and then sold to growers on discount through district offices of the agriculture departments.
The cultivable land in the province needs around 8,000 metric tons of certified wheat seeds. The KP seeds industry produces 5,000 tons and the rest is produced by the private sector or purchased by the department from Punjab.
On a question that the department had claimed producing over 9,000 metric tons of certified seeds, how it had come down, the official said the province could produce even more but there were problems. “Lack of sufficient funds and storage facilities are the major handicaps, ” he said.
Growers say the seed research farms in the province have developed high yielding varieties of wheat, maize and fruit and vegetable seeds but their on time and easy availability has always remained a problem.
“The government has failed to streamline seed distribution. It has not been able to check and crackdown on the substandard seeds in the market. When quality seeds, fertilisers and pesticides are not available, farmers generally use substandard seeds which results in rampant low per acre yield,” said a grower Aslam Khan.