A few days after a high-level meeting chaired by chief minister Uddhav Thackeray on the Kharif season revealed that Maharashtra farmers will cultivate soybean on a record 46 lakh hectares, almost one lakh hectares more than last year, the prices of seeds has increased enormously.
Mahabeej, or the Maharashtra State Seeds Corporation, has announced that a 30 kg seed bag will cost Rs 3,900-Rs 4,350 as against the 2021 price of Rs 2,250. Private seed sellers decide prices depending on Mahabeej rates. Most private companies sell seeds at higher prices.
Pic courtesy - CMO Maharashtra twitter handle
There are several reasons for the increase in the price of seeds. Rainfall in the last season during plucking affected the quality of seeds. The sweltering heat this summer could also affect their quality. Besides, inflation has also contributed to the price hike.
Farmer organisations suspect a private lobby behind the whopping increase in soybean seed prices. “It seems there is a private lobby working overnight to create an artificial shortage of seeds. They want to maintain higher rates. The state government should investigate whether the seed shortage is real,” Marathwada farmer leader Kalidas Apet told Newsclick.
Out of the various types of soybean seeds, Fule Sangam below 10 years is the most popular. As per the Mahabeej rates, this seed will be sold at Rs 145 per kg—a 30 kg bag will cost Rs 4,350, the costliest seed. MAUS 158 seeds between 10 and 15 years will cost the same.
Generally, such high rates of seeds and demand make way for a black market which often fools farmers by selling them low-quality seeds. Every Winter Session of the Assembly witnesses questions on the low quality or black market of seeds.
“Who are these black marketeers? They are either part of a racket involving agriculture officers or close to local politicians. This loot of farmers is an organised crime,” Ajit Nawale, state general secretary, All India Kisan Sabha, told Newsclick.
“Soybean farmers were already cheated by the Centre in the last season. The palm oil policy has hurt soybean farmers. But farmers still prefer soybean because of the high demand in the domestic market. The cost of every agricultural activity has increased due to the rise in fuel prices. The cost of seeds will add to the frustration of already-bleeding farmers,” Nawale added.