SATrends Issue 90
May 2008
1. HHB 67 Improved Increasing and Multiplying

After a slow start in 2006 following its official release in late 2005, pearl millet hybrid HHB 67 Improved was grown on >60 000 ha during the 2007 rainy season. Its good performance, and higher downy mildew disease resistance compared to the original HHB 67, has stimulated large demand for seed, and both public- and private-sector seed producers are now engaged in meeting this.

Andhra Pradesh State in southern India is famous for pearl millet hybrid seed production. Each summer, farmers in Nizamabad district produce >70% of the country's pearl millet hybrid seed requirement, with annual profits estimated at US$8 million. Farmers earn net profits of Rs 9,000-10,000 (about US$250) per acre through this activity, which had previously concentrated in and around Nizamabad, and has lately spread to Kurnool district as well.

HHB 67 "This HHB 67 Improved can pay my school fees!"

This summer, large-scale seed production of HHB 67 Improved was taken up in Nizamabad and Kurnool districts. Naveen Seeds of Adoni, took up seed production on 210 acres in Gajja Halli village in Holagunda mandal of Kurnool district, on vertisols irrigated with water from the lower Thungabadra canal. Farmers there grow chillies and sunflower during the rainy season and pearl millet hybrid in the summer.

The crop was sown in mid January and was ready for harvest when ICRISAT scientists visited in early April. Seed was directly sown by bullock-drawn implements in rows about 60 cm apart. This distance facilitated interculture operations by bullock-drawn implements. The male (H 77/833-2-202) to female (843-22A) row ratios ranged from 1:4 to 1:12 in different plots. The male and female rows were sown on the same day and there was good nicking during flowering, with the male flowering 2 days in advance of the female. The crop was excellent, with good uniform growth, tillering and very good grain filling. Farmers are most pleased and are expecting 8-10 quintals of seed to be harvested per acre (2.0 to 2.5 t ha-1).

Since its release in 2005, over 2 t of Breeder Seed of the parents of HHB 67 Improved (830 kg of pollinator, 1213 kg male-sterile line, and 191 kg maintainer line) has been supplied by ICRISAT to seed producers, largely for direct multiplication of Certified Seed of the hybrid, but now increasing for Foundation Seed production. With large areas under "HHB 67 Improved" hybrid seed production this summer, we expect that in the coming 2008 rainy season, over 500,000 ha in Haryana and Rajasthan will be sown with HHB 67 Improved, benefiting thousands of farm families.

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2. The Seven Commandments of Contract Farming

Contract farming, or farming after agreements have been reached between growers and buyer or processors, is quite a common occurrence in eastern and southern Africa. For example, all of Mozambique's cotton and tobacco is produced through contract farming. In Kenya, contracted farmers produce 60% of tea and sugar, and all the country's tobacco.

Policy makers and donors are turning to contract farming as a way to break the cycle of rural poverty because the agreements link resource-poor farmers to remunerative high-value markets, enabling them to earn a better, more secure income. Contract farming can also successfully compensate for poor input, credit, and output markets in these countries.

HHB 67 Weighing the bags before sending them off to market.

However, as experiences in countries such as Tanzania and Uganda have shown that contract farming does not always succeed. There are several conditions that have to be in place to ensure the success of contract farming:

  1. Contract farming is not just for the poor. All stakeholders must have an incentive to make a profit if the contracts are to be respected.
  2. As contract farming is largely a response to failures in input and credit markets, policy makers should focus on strengthening these as their primary priority.
  3. If the production and marketing characteristics of a crop are not conducive, contract farming is not the solution. Maize, for example, has far too many buyers for contract farming to work.
  4. Governments should encourage smallholder farmers to form farmer groups, associations, or cooperatives as these have advantages to both the buyers (lowering of transactions and real marketing costs) as well as the farmers (raising their power of negotiation).
  5. Contract farming is more likely to be successful where there is a functioning legal system to protect smallholders and reduce enforcement costs for the contractor.
  6. Government policy should aim at creating an environment for contracts to remain viable while input markets develop. For example, contract farming cannot survive if there is competition between governments and firms on the cost of inputs they provide, as is the case for subsidized fertilizer for Malawi and Zimbabwe.
  7. The most effective regulation is self-regulation by the private sector, facilitated by the government. This is the case when firms that are already providing input credit to farmers are threatened by new entrants that do not share a commitment to input provision. Supporting effective self-regulation will make contract farming more sustainable and equitable for all.

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