A projection made by the United Nations Department of Economic & Social Affairs (UN DESA) shows that world population will increase from 6.9 billion in 2010 to 9.6 billion people in the 2050. This scenario raises the question of food security for all, wherein agriculture with quality rice seeds will play a fundamental role in meeting the world‘s growing demand of food. Research and development on rice seed needs to be strengthened in order to push benefits beyond the frontiers of domestic boundaries. Joint varietal development by India and Bangladesh can be useful as both share similar agro-climatic conditions and scientific know- how. Ongoing RISTE-research work reveals that supply of good quality of certified seeds at the local and regional level is quite satisfactory. The price that local dealers are charging is moderate. But Governmental efforts to distribute seeds in times of need have been inadequate since a long time. Similarly, introduction of new varieties by Governmental research institutes is not favorable towards the farmers. The process of dealing with new varieties is still cumbersome and farmers could not avail the fruits of the research initiatives.
RISTE project enhances MUKTI’s capacity by analyzing market channels for agro inputs (seeds) and determining a seed supply chain that will ensure food security in West Bengal. The project goal involves developing and enabling environment to promote seeds trade and knowledge – sharing on HYV rice seeds between India and Bangladesh. It has been found that the Bangladesh variety BR-11, which has been replicated in India since quite a few years, generated demand in the north–eastern states of India. But recent Government officials and farmers acknowledged in the Kissan Gosthi meet at Teor/Hilli that demands of BB-11 (Bangladesh variety BR-11) is decreasing. The participants in this workshop were Professor Bipul Malakar from Jadavpur University, Mr. Sishuranjan Guha Neogy-Assistant Agricultural officer, Hilli; Mr. Ashim Das from Mukti, local agricultural experts and more than two hundred local farmers. The objective of the said Kissan Gosthi meet is to share the findings of the ongoing research under Riste-project and develop an enabling environment for cooperation in rice seeds between India and Bangladesh.
In this workshop, it was found that use of Bagladesh varieties BB-11 at present is decreasing and it is discovered that Swarna Masuri is still the dominantly used rice seed in India, North Bengal. Germination of Indian rice seeds (Swarna Masuri, Lalat, Pratiksha, Parijat etc.) is popular amongst farmers. So far, no complaints are received from farmers or farmers clubs about germination or total input. More and more varieties from both the countries should be exchanged by which farmers can benefit faster. The Indian varieties, which are becoming more and more popular, should be shared by both India and Bangladesh to protect and ensure food security in the long run. A consideration which has come to the forefront is that research on new rice seed varieties must be focused on varieties which needs less water, as it is widely acknowledged that expensive irrigation systems are a big barrier to bringing uncultivated land under cultivation. So there is an urgent demand to innovate new varieties which are suited to dry lands and can help to protect food security.
To take the project forward, a joint India-Bangladesh press conference will be organized towards exchange of rice seed varieties through introduction of export–import between the two countries. It also came up that R&D findings should be shared between the two countries. Moreover, country partners should organize mass signature campaigns in their respective states to formalize rice seed trade. Government officials, political representatives, bureaucrats, seed companies, farmers and other stakeholders must participate in lobbying to change the existing policies on rice seeds import and export between the two countries.