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How breeding companies sparked a green revolution in India

Hybrid seed adoption rates in India are today estimated at 60-70 per cent in maize, 90 per cent in jowar and bajra, and 95 per cent in cotton. But the real story of hybridisation-driven growth has been in vegetables, where a doubling of production, 88.62 million tonnes (mt) to 178.17 mt between 2001-02 and 2016-17, can be significantly credited to private seed companies. Leaving out potatoes (which are almost entirely grown as OPVs) and onions (where the hybridisation rate is only 20-25 per cent), their dominance in the vegetable seed business is near-total.

The current domestic market for hybrid vegetable seeds is around Rs 2,500-3,000 crore [384-461 million USD], of which the major shares are of okra/bhindi and hot pepper/chilli (12 per cent each); followed by tomato and onion (10 per cent each); cauliflower and gourds (9 per cent each); cucumber/kheera (6 per cent); cabbage, sweet corn and watermelon (4 per cent each), other melons (3 per cent), eggplant/brinjal (2 per cent); and carrot and radish/mooli (1 per cent). Equally significant is the large market share of multinationals such as Syngenta (13 per cent), Nunhems/Bayer (12 per cent), Seminis/Monsanto (10 per cent) and East-West Seed (6 per cent). The Indian players mainly include Mahyco (9 per cent) and others with not as much share: Namdhari Seeds, Rasi Seeds, VNR Seeds, Beej Sheetal Seeds and Advanta Seeds.

There have been two key drivers of the above private sector-led “greens revolution”. The first is, of course, the amenability of vegetables to hybridisation; hybrid seeds penetration rates in tomatoes, chillies, okra, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber, capsicum and gourds are now 75 per cent or more. The second is high yields, which makes farmers willing to pay more for these seeds.

Read more at The Indian Express (Harish Damodaran)

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