Competitive advantage of quality seeds

Mansoor Ahmad
Saturday, Mar 18, 2023

LAHORE: Seed is the most important input in agriculture that has been ignored by our planners. There may be other impediments in agricultural growth, but it has been established that despite other shortcomings, the yield of quality seeds is always higher.

Pakistan Hi-Tech Hybrid Seed Association Chairman Shahzad Ali Malik said Pakistan’s salvation from the current crisis lies in accelerating agricultural growth to its full potential. He said all farmers face water shortages, weakened soil, and shortage of fertilisers, but those that have access to quality certified seed perform much better under the same conditions.

Elaborating his point he said the per acre yield of conventional IRRI-6 rice seed available in Pakistan is 30 maund/acre. He said all hybrid seed varieties of IRRI-6 whether imported or locally produced give almost

four times higher yield of 110-130 maunds/acre under the same general conditions on which conventional IRRI-6 variety is cultivated.

This high yield has appreciably brought down the price of hybrid IRRI type rice. Pakistanis are able to compete globally in export. About a decade back the export of IRRI variety was half than the export of basmati rice from Pakistan.

Now the IRRI or coarse rice exports are three times the export of basmati in value terms and 1.5 times higher in quantity.

Experts wonder even after this clear example of advantage of better quality seed, the authorities are only giving lip service to

quality seed import or production in


The hybrid rice variety was introduced in Pakistan by a private party that imported it for few years. After its success, the Chinese agreed to transfer the technology to the local dealer.

Today that seed company is producing 54 percent of the requirements of its consumers (farmers) and 46 percent is imported. The target is to increase local production to 65 percent next year and reduce imports to 35 percent.

Being the market leader, the company commands a share of over 45 percent in the hybrid seed market of Pakistan. Due to high local production, it enjoys a price advantage over its other competitors.

The reduction of seed cost is one advantage of transfer of technology. The other witnessed this year was the continuous supply of locally produced seed, when imports remained under pressure due to the foreign exchange problems.

The problems faced by the seed companies in Pakistan include mushroom growth of fake seed producers or exporters. In Pakistan there are over 750 rice seed companies registered by the federal government.

According to the terms of registration, all seed companies must produce 10 percent of the seed they imported a year earlier through transfer of technology and local research and development efforts. Barring about half a dozen seed companies, none have gone for local production even after over a decade of registration.

The regulator has not confronted them on not producing seeds locally, despite the passage of the stipulated time.

In neighbouring India, there are only 100 hybrid seed companies (compared with 70 in Pakistan) registered by their regulator.

At the same time India banned the import of hybrid rice that forced the global seed companies to transfer technology to their Indian partners.

Today India is producing quality hybrid cotton seed, hybrid basmati rice seed that yields 2.5 times more than Pakistani basmati. India has drastically reduced our share in the global basmati market.

India today is a net exporter of both varieties of rice, a regular exporter of wheat and maize and a sugar exporter.