After losses because of unseasonal rain and nerves because of weak-monsoon forecast, there's more bad news for Punjab's farmers - wheat seeds might be unavailable in the rabi season of 2016.
The state agriculture department has sent an advisory to all farmers that they should stock the seeds for 2016 in advance to avoid last-minute rush and fleecing. "As the wheat grain produced in the current season is shrivelled, moist, and discoloured, it is unfit to be seed for the next crop," said Punjab agriculture minister Tota Singh.
Punjab requires 35 lakh quintal wheat seeds to sow over 35 lakh hectares every rabi season, which begins in October-November. Covering each hectare (2.45 acres) requires about 100-kilogram seeds, and the minister claims that the state can supply only 5 lakh quintals, enough for only 13 lakh hectares. "And we are unsure about even that," said Tota Singh.
The agriculture department is worried that Punjab's common-grown variety 2967 has caught Karnal bunt disease across the state, which in the previous seasons had hit only the kandi (sub-mountainous) belt. The 3086 variety has survived best this season but it covered only a small area compared with 2967. Reports are that 3086 is sold out already.
Young Farmers Association president Jagdeep Singh Cheema has asked the agriculture department to procure the seeds of 3086 but by the time the government took its decision, the stocks had disappeared from the market. Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) will also do germination test on wheat at different locations to know how much seed is available in the state. Punjab State Farmers Commission consultant PS Rangi as advised the state government to import seeds from Gujarat or Madhya Pradesh. "Wheat being a major crop of the state and its economy being dependent largely on it, we can't take any chances," he said.