Soya farmers in Maharashtra are not very happy with their crop prospects this season. Farmers, who faced a seed crunch at the start of the kharif season, are urging the government to set up procurement centres to begin purchase operations.
Farmers in Vidarbha, Akola, Nanded and Parbhani districts of the state are worst-affected and have been complaining that their seeds have not germinated in time. Mahabeej, the state seed corporation that has a 45% share in the state’s soya seed business says the delay in rains affected the crop and the seed quality cannot be blamed for the shortfall in production. According to the Soybean Processors Association of India (SOPA), productivity in Maharashtra has gone down by 15%.
Incidentally, Maharashtra ranks number one in the country in terms of productivity and produces some 1.3 tonne per hectare. In Maharashtra, the area under soybean cultivation during Kharif 2014 is 38.008 lakh hectares as compared to 38.704 lakh hectares during Kharif 2013. A yield of 808 kg per hectare and production of 30.721 lakh tonne has been estimated for Kharif 2014.
According to the SOPA spokesperson and coordinator, Maharashtra has been affected by the delay in monsoon. Last year the rains were not enough as a result of which the sizes of beans have been affected in most areas. SOPA had given an estimate of 30 lakh tonne for Maharashtra and this is likely to come down by 15%. Normally, crop production estimates for Maharashtra are around 38 lakh tonne.
Nanasaheb Patil, member, Nafed, the agency that participates in MSP operations, said the need for procurement seeds has not arisen. Prices are currently at R3,000 per quintal while MSP is at R2500 per quintal, he said.
Umakant Gawande, who looks after Quality Control at Mahabeej, says that the seeds supplied by the corporation have gone through the due diligence process and have been released in the market after proper trials. This year, the monsoons were late and farmers were in hurry to sow the seeds. Since Soya is a sensitive crop, it gets affected, he pointed out. Soybean requires about five centimetres of soil moisture to germinate, and the soil moisture was not sufficient at the time of sowing.
Another reason for crop failure, according to government agencies, is that the farmers sowed the seeds using tractors, sending the seed too deep into the soil. Normally Mahabeej suplies some 4.5 lakh quintals of Soya seeds. This year, it came down to 1.52 lakh quintals, Gawande said.
It may be mentioned here that at the start of the Kharif season, the prices of certified soyabean seeds had gone up by around one third to R70 per kg in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, the country’s main soyabean growing states. Hailstorms that occurred early this year in Maharashtra damaged soyabean resulting in reduced availability of seeds for sowing.
The state faced a crunch of soybean seed for the coming kharif season to the tune of 200,000 tonne, according to estimates given by state government officials.
The agriculture ministry has pegged the shortage of certified and quality soyabean seeds at 69,616 tonne across the country. The total requirement of soyabean seeds for kharif is pegged at 3.43 lakh tonne, whereas the availability is estimated at 2.73 lakh tonne.
Soybean is a kharif crop (sown in June-July and harvested in September-November) and is dependent on monsoon rains. The soybean season runs from October to September.