Bilateral cooperation on cross-border exchange of rice seeds will benefit both Bangladesh and India significantly because of their similarities in agro-climate conditions, said a recent study.

“Increased cooperation will help millions of farmers to have more access to better quality seeds at a cheaper price,” said Mahfuz Kabir, co-author of the study—“Bangladesh-India rice seeds trade: trends, issues and policy perspective.”

There is a persistent demand and supply gap in rice seeds in Bangladesh hovering around 180,890 tonnes to 189,415 tonnes in the last several years, he said. In India, the situation is reverse. In 2013, there is a surplus of 42,572 tonnes of rice seeds in four eastern Indian states—Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal.

“This gap can potentially be filled by export of Indian rice seeds of both hybrid and high yielding varieties,” said Kabir, also senior research fellow of Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies.

At present, the demand and supply gap of rice seeds in Bangladesh is being partly filled by import of hybrid seeds from China. China meets more than 90 percent of Bangladesh's import demand for rice seeds. India's exports to Bangladesh remain negligible, accounting for less than 3 percent of its total exports. Anecdotal evidences suggest that there is some informal rice seeds trade occurring at the border points between India and Bangladesh.

Trading barriers have been reported to be more rigid and greater in number from the Indian side. Bangladesh imports a wide array of products from India through formal and informal processes. From the Bangladesh side, there are minimal trade barriers. But in case of India, due to their federal government system, facilitating trade requires much longer time and many forms of documents and authorization and certification from a number of bodies, according to the study.

The issue of harmonization of seed standards and certification is critical for both Bangladesh and India, especially for addressing the issue of food security and climate change, the study said.

“The potential of seed trading between Bangladesh and India is immense,” said Swapan Kumar Datta, deputy director general (crop sciences) of India Council of Agricultural Research.
Informal bilateral trade in rice seeds is on the rise even as there might have been some technical barriers to seed trading between the two countries, he said.

In Bangladesh, more than 100 private companies are involved in seed production and around 5,000 dealers are operational across the country. Also, there are thousands of contract farmers engaged in seed production. Bangladesh's seed market is worth around $261 million.
Khondkar Ibrahim Khaled, a former chairman of Bangladesh Krishi Bank, and Mustafizur Rahman, executive director of Centre for Policy Dialogue, reported.