Nepal’s Growing reliance on imported hybrid seeds, A devastating consequences

Maheshwor adhikari, 4th sem Lamjung Campus

“A country can never be food secure if it isn’t seed secure”.
A majority of seeds used by farmers across Nepal for both grains and vegetables came from outside the country and scientists say that’s not good news.
Nepal is rich in so many neglected and unutilized specie. We have local varieties superior toimported ones but their resilience has gone due to improper germplasm management. So, there is an urge in Nepalese agriculture system to minimized aforementioned risks, and to create an environment where Nepal could be the seed exporter than importer.

Just about three decades ago, a majority of Nepali farmers relied on local indigenous seed. Even until the 90s, Nepal was seed exporting country. Today, according to agriculture scientists, more than 90% of vegetable seeds are imported. According to the data provided by Department of Customs, in the fiscal year 2018/2019 Nepal imported 424,333 kgs of vegetables seeds worth Rs.553.06 million. Nearly 30% of maize seeds are imported, and around 15% of rice from other

To know why Nepali farmers are transforming towards hybrid seeds instead of local varieties it is very crucial to know what is hybrid seed and why it is created. A hybrid seed is created by crossing two different varieties of the same plants. Crossing involves taking the pollen from the male flower of one plant and transferring it to the female flower’s parts of a different plant. Once the ovary of the female flower is pollinated, it will begin to swell and form a fruit. The seeds that develop inside
that fruit are hybrid seeds. Hybrid varieties often features traits like disease resistance, improved flavor or productivity, early maturity and so on. With land shrinking, it makes more commercial sense for farmers to relay on hybrid seeds. The return of investment is not only higher from hybrid seeds but also quicker.

Problem is not with hybrid seeds but with Nepal’s over dependence on imported seeds. Our seeds imports have been steadily increasing for many years which is contributing to Nepal’s trade deficit. We can just only imagine if the countries we import our seeds form refuse to send us seed.

What will our farmers grow then? What will the nation eat?
Numerous risks:
Our local seeds are about to disappear. If for some reason these hybrids imported seeds do not come, we would be in a situation of emergency. Without local seeds to fall back on, farmers have become more dependent on imported seeds and in case of crop failure, a farmer who needs income to buy fresh seeds can face economic ruin. Its also worrying researches looking seed security in Nepal as typically hybrid seeds continue to drive out local seeds cultivated over centuries to yield
under local condition. Many of the imported hybrid seeds packets lack even the basic planting information, leaving farmers with no knowledge of how to plant them and the ideal conditions to plant them in. Many of the vegetables seeds packets has no information on what kind of fertilizers and chemicals should be used, how much water the plant will need, and even no information about the ideal climatic conditions to grow them in. Even the limited information available is written in languages other than Nepali.

In the absence of crucial information farmers have no option but to rely on same technique they had used to plant local varieties. We grow imported Japanese hybrid cauliflowers the same way we grew Jyapu cauliflowers. Fortunately, they have grown well. But there have been several incidents of massive crop failure in the past. In 2013, paddy planted in 16 VDCs in Bhaktapur, amounting 20,000 tons and worth Rs. 80 million was destroyed by neck blast and bacterial leaf blight diseases. Investigations revealed that the farmers had used DY 69- a Chinese hybrid varieties
recommended by seed quality control center under the Ministry of Agriculture Development in 2010.

Some agro- scientists spoke that depending solely on hybrid seeds isn’t good for the soil. Hybrid seeds require a lot more nutrients that open- pollinated ones. So, farmers have to use a lot of fertilizers, which accelerates the depletion of soil quality. This is one of the long term serious negative impacts of using hybrid seeds.
Creating Nepal’s own hybrids:
Many of us still in doubt about, Is there a “gene bank” for local seeds in Nepal” Well like in many other countries today there is a number of them. They are local facilities known as “Community seed banks”, rather than a few centralized vaults, but they do exist. Many of those community seed banks are maintained by local people, several with INGOs assistance, and the last count turned up
a total of 115 seeds bank across the country.

By 2025, the National Seed Vision aims to release 423 open pollinated varieties and 60 hybrid varieties. But currently, the numbers stand at 273 for open pollinated varieties, and eight for hybrid. But even the few hybrid seeds produced in Nepal face fierce competition from imported seeds manufactured in the highly advanced laboratories of China, Japan and India. But our hybrid seeds are better than low-quality imported hybrid seeds. For example, Sarba Shrestha Seeds Pvt.Ltd.
estd. In 2015 an emerging seed company is working its part to make a healthy seed business with its motto ‘Seeds for Nepal, Seeds form Nepal’.
Fig: Local seed varieties of Jyapu cauliflower Fig: Drying and storing of seeds of local beans


Solutions and Conclusion:
As far as I am concerned, a balance must be stuck between hybrid and open-pollinated varieties.
Following things should be address to decrease the increasing reliance on imported hybrid seeds which is a serious concern for food security of Nepal.
➢ The government should focus on promoting local varieties for crops wherever possible as it is seen that farmers in the country tend to care more for crops grown using hybrid seeds.
We have some improved local varieties of seeds that give as much yield as hybrid ones if properly cared.
➢ Local varieties of seeds should be easily available in the local market as with easy
availability of hybrid seeds, genetic diversity with local varieties is disappearing and no longer available in the market.
➢ Available seeds banks should focus to increase the quality of local varieties of seeds. Today’s people are willing to pay more for local varieties because it’s a fact that crops from hybrid seeds don’t taste or smell as good as local varieties.
➢ Seeds that are imported from other countries must be tested here in the country with certain criteria before distribution to the farmers field.

There still are local seeds to fall back on, not only thanks to poor small-scale farmers but also to these more organized seed storage facilities. The things that we should keep in our mind is that, what then will promote seed security in Nepal? local varieties nurtured in the community or imported hybrid seeds? Of course, its preserving, using and developing local seeds of Nepal. With the right policy interventions, we can still turn things around.

Vegetables seed import scenario in Nepal, A journal by Arun kafle’ and khem Raj Joshi2 at research gate publication.

Seeds imports- and how farmers lost their “seed security” written by Hans Andersen (March 2,2015)
News article published in ‘The Kathmandu Post’ newspaper by Tsering Ngodup Lama (October 30,2020) as major reference.

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