The latest rice data, jointly generated by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) and Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), showed that the acreage and production of hybrid rice varieties have reduced by 41 and 39 percent respectively over the last five years.
Experts and agro officials also observed that low quality seeds as well as high input cost for hybrid rice production have contributed to the gradual decline in its cultivation.
First introduced in fiscal 1999-2000, following the devastating flood in 1998, hybrid rice cultivation reached its peak in fiscal 2007-8 when 48 lakh tonnes of hybrid varieties were produced from 11 lakh hectares of land.
The latest rice data of BBS and DAE revealed that the production and acreage of hybrid rice have reduced to only 30 million tonnes and 6.4 lakh hectares in the last Boro season.
In the fiscal 2011-12, 6.53 lakh hectares were brought under hybrid rice cultivation, out of a total of Boro coverage of 47.7 lakh hectares, whereas the acreage was 7.2 lakh hectors out of a total of 47.8 lakh hectors in the preceding season.
The Agriculture Ministry’s records also show that in 2008-09, production of hybrid rice came down to 4.31 million tonnes in 9.3 lakh hectares.
A key official at the Field Service Wing of DAE told UNB that the targets for hybrid rice production and acreage for the current fiscal have been fixed at only 31 lakh tonnes and 6.6 lakh hectares.
“The target of hybrid cultivation may not be achieved as the overall acreage of Boro crop may witness a reduction this year due to the cold wave hit seedbeds in January,” he said.
“The farmers are not interested in producing hybrid rice as its market value is much lower compared to traditional high yielding variety (HYV) and indigenous varieties. Consumers don’t like its sticky taste,” he said.
Seed expert Dr M A Sobhan pointed out that lower quality seeds sold by the private companies is one of the key reasons behind the fall in the cultivation of hybrid rice varieties.
He also pointed out that farmers are gradually losing interest in cultivating the hybrid rice varieties as it requires higher input costs compared to the cultivating cost of HYV and local varieties.
“Seed preservation or right over seed is also a concern for the farmers considering hybrid. The farmers can preserve seeds of traditional HYV and indigenous varieties for their inbreed varieties which is not possible in hybrid,” he said.
Dr Sobhan also pointed out that production of hybrid varieties mostly imported from China, India and the Philippines, are 4 to 4.2 tonnes while many inbreed rice varieties, including BR-28 and BR-29 can give almost the same yield to the farmers with lower production cost.
According to the Bangladesh Seed Association (BSA), private seed companies sold hardly 6500 tonnes of hybrid seeds in the fiscal 2011-12 which was more than 12,500 tonnes in the fiscal 2007-8.
Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury in a programme at Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council on June 17 last year also recognised the factor that hybrid cultivation has been showing negative results in some places of the country.
“The main reason is the lack of regulation. At present, there is a lack of regulation of hybrid seed imports. The farmers are being deceived by errant seed business as there is a lack of supervision,” she said.
“When hybrid seeds were first introduced in the country after the 1998 flood, the government took initiatives to form a strict regulation that included a provision of a three-year trial for any imported seeds before the marketing. In the following years, the regulation has undergone changes that made the marketing simpler,” the minister added. UNB