A Review: The Indian seed industry, its development, current status and future

The agricultural sector is highly dependent on the availability and quality of seeds for a productive harvest. The response of all other inputs depends on quality of seeds to a large extent and estimated 15 – 20% contribution of quality seed alone to the total production which is depending upon the crop and it can be further raised up to 45% with efficient management of other inputs. Today, the Indian seed industry is the fifth largest seed market in the world and valued at more than Rs 2500 crores. The seed industry has grown steadily in the last four decades. A number of transformations have taken place in this sector over the past few decades like rising a penetration of the organised sector, growth in contract farming, agriculture becoming more mechanized, easy loan facilities, rise of exports, use of agrochemicals and high yielding seeds and an increasing role of the private sector in processing, branding and marketing, etc. Government took many progressive and reformative steps in last three decades for the growth of seed sector in the country. In terms of global trade, India is almost self-sufficient in flower, fruits and vegetables and field crops seeds. Research also have related to quality enhancement technologies such as cereals with higher proteins, minerals and vitamin contents like Golden rice, QPM and Fe and Zn enriched millets. A single-window clearance is recommended for faster release of useful transgenic crops along with its public awareness on benefits and possible risk issues in future.
Keywords: Indian Seed Industry, Seed Production, Seed Certification, Seed policy:
What is Seed ?
Seed is a basic agricultural input and it is an embryo, embedded in the food storage tissue. Seed is also defined as a matured ovule which consists of an embryonic plant with storage of food and surrounded by a protective seed coat.
Importance of Seed:- Seed is the basic and most critical input for sustainable agriculture. Therefore our major concern and focus is to produce quality seed to take more and more from less and less. The response of all other inputs depends on quality of seeds to a large extent and estimated that the direct contribution of quality seed alone to the total production is about 15 – 20% depending upon the crop and it can be further raised up to 45% with efficient management of other inputs. Today, the Indian seed industry is the fifth largest seed market in the world and valued at more than Rs 2500 crores ($ 500 million). Government took many progressive and reformative steps in last three decades for the growth of seed sector in the country. The agriculture is the backbone of rural economy. Agriculture in India has made significant growth and we are on the path of second green revolution through modern agricultural technology. For sustainable agriculture, a good quality seed is the most basic and essential input. The Indian seed industry has played a very critical role in the growth of Indian agricultural. Indian seed industry is the fifth largest seed market in the world and valued around Rs 2500 crore ($ 500 million) with about 150 organized seed companies and is proposed to be around 3750 crores ($ 750 million) by 2002 (Gadwal, 2003) [6]. Indian seed industry is accounting for 4.4 % of global seed market after the U.S. (27%), China (20%), France (8%) and Brazil (6%). In terms of global trade, India is almost self-sufficient in flower, fruits and vegetables and field crops seeds. The seed industry has grown steadily in the last four decades. There is seed legislation in place and a Draft Seeds Act of 2001 is being finalized on the basis of the recommendations of Seed Policy Review Group. It will replace the existing Seeds Act of 1966 and Seed (Control) Order of 1983.
Need for a second Green Revolution:-
The “Green Revolution” ushered during the late 60s and 70s is recognized to be a turning point in our Indian Agriculture. It is well known that the introduction of high yielding, semi-dwarf and fertilizer responsive varieties of wheat and rice led to a dramatic shift from “food scarce” to “food secure” status in the country. This success was the result of holy alliance between policy makers/administrators and the hard working farmers. In order to meet the growing demands for our increasing population, likely to be 1.7 billion by 2050, we shall need to double our food production (Paroda, 2013) [13]. This can only be possible by bridging the existing yield gaps through improved productivity and by integrated natural resource management. Hence, the second Green Revolution would demand much faster growth of seed sector especially to meet the demand of hybrid seeds and to replace old with new high yieldi varieties. For this, a Mission on Seed Production is urgently needed.
Development of seed industry in India (Policies and Regulations):-
Seed industry’s excellent growth story is reflective of India’s own agriculture momentum. The National Seeds Corporation (NSC) were established in 1963 undertakes production, processing and marketing of agricultural seeds. The Seeds Act, 1966 provides for the legislative framework for regulation of quality control of seeds sold in the country. The Seeds Act was formulated in 1963 and came into force in 1966. Its important features are; seeds should contain specific seed standards, which include stipulated minimum physical and genetic purity, seed germination % and not exceeding the maximum permissible limit of off-types and weed seeds. The seeds should be tagged either by compulsory labelling or voluntary certification. Seed testing laboratories (STLs) are now 124 (till mid of 2016) which involved in checking the compatibility of different varieties of seeds, usually tested for germination and vigour, diseases, purity, genetic traits and general seed health for quality assurance. World Bank launched a funding project i.e. The National Seed Project (NSP) which was implemented in three phases viz., Phase I (1977-78), Phase II (1978-79) and Phase III (1990-91). Under these projects initially nine State Seed Corporations (15 at present), State Seed Certification Agencies (22 at present), State Seed Testing Laboratories were established and Breeder Seed Programme were also under taken. New Seeds Policy of 1988 made a revolution in Indian seed industry by liberalizing the seed trade and made Indian farmers to access best quality seed or planting material from abroad the world. Seed Bank Scheme (2000) also set up seed banks in non-traditional areas to meet the demand for seeds.
during natural calamities, shortfall in seed production and other emergency situations. PPV & FRA (Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Act) in 2001 provides farmers the right to save, use exchange, share and sell farm produce of protected variety except sale of branded seed. Farmer or group of farmers can claim compensation if it is failed to give specified performance under given conditions as specified by the breeder of the variety. The National Seeds Policy of 2002, stresses the importance of providing farmers enough superior quality seed on time to meet the country’s food security needs. In 2005, National Seed Research and Training Centre (NSRTC) in Varanasi were initiated to have a separate Central Seed Testing Laboratory for seed quality control and act as a referral lab when disputes arise in a court of law with regard to quality of seed. The government has also launched a Central Sector Scheme namely, “Development and Strengthening of Infrastructure Facilities for Production and Distribution of Quality Seeds” from the year 2005-06.
Current Status of Seed Industry:-
India’s seed industry has grown in size and level of performance over the past four decades. Both private and public sector companies/corporations are involved with the production of seed. The success achieved with the introduction of high yielding varieties of wheat and rice and the hybrids of maize, millets and cotton could be sustained due to sound policy support provided through establishment of public sector organizations, such as the National Seeds Corporation (NSC), Tarai Development Corporation (TDC), State Farms Corporation of India (SFCI) and the State Seed Corporations (SSCs) during the Green Revolution period. The seed sector grew steadily in the subsequent period with the establishment of several private seed companies dealing with both field crops and vegetables. The most dramatic change in the seed scenario was experienced in the first decade of current millennium. At present, a decelerating productivity growth rate, increasing prices and demand for food grains, shrinking natural resources, fragmented land holdings and the challenges of climate change have emerged as the major concerns for the governmental policy makers and scientists alike. For raising the agricultural productivity, seed is most appropriate and cheapest input. Only by the use of good quality seeds we can increase the yield about 15-20 percent and it may be up to 45 % with proper and efficient use of other inputs (Ali, 2016) [2]. Therefore, any attempt to turn around our agricultural productivity will largely depend on higher replacement rate of quality seeds of high yielding varieties / hybrids.
In real sense, growth of private sector began in early nineties when ICAR took a bold decision of providing breeder seed of parental lines of public bred hybrids and varieties freely to the private sector in order to ensure higher productivity of major crops. This enabled private seed companies to grow much faster even with limited R & D capacity. For this reason, we find today that some of the local seed companies are highly successful and building their capability further. The contribution of private research in terms of value is steadily increasing.
Seed Production System in India:-
The Indian seed programme largely adheres to the limited generations’ system for seed multiplication in a phased manner. The system recognizes three generations namely breeder, foundation and certified seeds and provides adequate safeguard for quality assurance in the seed multiplication chain to maintain the purity of the variety as it flows from the breeder to the farmer.
Breeder Seed:-Breeder seed is the progeny of nucleus seed of a variety and is produced by the originating breeder or by a sponsored breeder. Breeder seed production is the mandate of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and is being undertaken with the help of ICAR Research Institutions, National Research Centres and All India Coordinated Research Project of different crops, State Agricultural Universities (SAUs). There has been a steady increase in the production of breeder seed over the years.
Foundation Seed:- Foundation seed is the progeny of breeder seed and is required to be produced from breeder seed or from foundation seed which can be clearly traced to breeder seed. The responsibility for production of foundation seed has been entrusted to the NSC, SFCI, State Seeds Corporations, State departments of Agriculture and private seed producers, who have the necessary infrastructure facilities. Foundation seed is required to meet the standards of seed certification prescribed in the IMSCS, 2013 both at the field and laboratory level.
Certified Seed:-
Certified seed is the progeny of foundation seed and must meet the standards of seed certification prescribed in the IMSCS, 2013. In case of self pollinated crops, certified seeds can also be produced from certified seeds provided it does not go beyond three generations from foundation seed stage-I. Certified seed production is organized by State Seeds Corporation, NSC, SFCI, other public, cooperatives & private companies etc. on it’s own farms, governmental farms and progressive famer’s field.

Seed Certification System in India:-
Seed certification is a legally sanctioned system for quality control of seed multiplication and production. In India, seed certification is voluntary and labelling is compulsory. The main objective of the Seed Certification is to ensure the acceptable standards of seed viability, vigour, purity and seed health. Any variety to become eligible for seed certification should meet the field and seed standards. General requirements includes variety should be a notified under Section-5 of the Indian Seed Act, 1966 and should be in the production chain and its pedigree should be traceable also. Field standards include the selection of site, isolation requirements, spacing, planting ratio, border rows etc. Specific requirements like presence of off-types in any seed crop, pollen-shedders in Sorghum, Bajra, Sunflower etc., Shedding tassels in maize, disease affected plants, objectionable weed plants etc., should be within the maximum permissible levels for certification. In India, Seed Certification Agencies in each States are establishment under Section 8 of the Seeds Act, 1966.
Maintenance seed quality:-
Seed quality is maintained through seed certification, seed testing, seed labelling and seed law enforcement by the State Seed Certification Agencies, which are 24 at present in different states in the country. Other states have maintains the seed quality by seed certification through State department of Agriculture. Seeds being sold in the market are compulsorily required to be labelled as prescribed under the Seeds Act, 1966. Seed quality standards are prescribed under the IMSCS, 2013 [9]. Grow-out test (GOT) is evaluation of the seeds for their genuineness to species or varieties or seed borne infection. Here the samples drawn from the lots are grown in the field along with the standard checks. Growing plants are observed for the varietal purity. GOT test were conducted to evaluate foundation seed mostly but sometimes it is also tested in certified and truthfully labelled (TL) seeds in special conditions.
Need to enhance SRR:-
For achieving the desired levels of Seed Replacement Rates (SRR), adequate seed of good variety needs has to be produced first. Each state needs to prepare a State Seed Plan to meet the seed requirement specific to concern region. In last two decades the ICAR institutes and SAUs have made significant progress in meeting fully the breeder seed requirement. In less than a decade, even the breeder seed production has been doubled from 62231 quintal (2005-06) to 122633 quintal (2010-11) (Table 4). Production of Breeder Seed in different crops is adequate to achieve a desired seed replacement rate i.e. around 30% in self pollinated species, 50% in often cross pollinated species and 100% in hybrids (DSR/ICAR, 2012). Yet the organized seed sector is estimated to cater to only 25-30% of total seed requirement in the country (Agrawal, 2012 [1] and Rabobank, 2012 [16]). Hence, even if the SRR is increased to 50%, the domestic seed market will exceed to US$ 5000 million thus bringing India’s position to 3rd rank.
Need to innovation:-
The seed sector had been quite active to outscale new innovation in agriculture. Such innovation encompasses development of superior hybrids, transgenics and advanced seed treatments especially in crops like rice, maize, sorghum (rabi),pigeon pea,rapeseed mustard,castor,vegetables etc. If ICAR provides the parental lines of new vegetable hybrids to private companies without any cost, may be a progressive steps.If government provides subsidy to public bred hybrids the farmers also take interest in same. A collective and targeted approach by government and research institutes will be made and also need to develop better climate resilient hybrids as well as, varieties both by public and private sector.
Need to exchange Germplasms:-:-
National Bureau of Plant Genetics Resources (NBPGR) was established in 1976, which houses the world's third largest Gene Bank. This not only acts as a national repository of plant genetic resources, but also acts as an apex organization facilitating germplasm conservation, access and exchange for research purposes.NBPGR has a rich collection of 3,95,000 accessions of more than 1500 plant species,which can be of great significance in plant breeding programs.
Need for Biotechnology:-
The high-yielding technology that heralded the Green Revolution has, no doubt, rescued the country from chronic food deficiency and starvation but it has had its adverse effects too.The high input cultivation of rice and wheat has led to excessive water use and eroded soil quality;indiscriminate use of chemical pesticides has led to pesticide resistance making pest management increasingly difficult (Gordon, 1997) [8].Weed infestation causes heavy crop losses, if not controlled in time.Application of biotechnology should be focused to develop new improved varieties particularly resistant to biotic and abiotic stresses.Recombinant DNA technology that enables movement of genes of interest across sexual incompatibility barriers is one approach plant scientists are relying upon worldwide today to find genetic solutions to specific problems(Paroda, 1999 [12]and Swaminathan,1999 [20]).
The Indian regulatory system is a 3-tier structure.It comprises the following:-
Indian Seed Programme is now occupying a pivotal place in Indian agriculture and is well poised for continued growth in the years to come. NSC, SFCI, States Seeds Corporations and other seed producing agencies are continuously and gradually expanding all its activities especially in terms of its product range, volume and value of seed handled, level of seed distribution to the un-reached areas, etc. Production of hybrids/HYVs needs to be promoted on high priority to improve productivity and increase production especially in crops like, rice, maize, sorghum (rabi), arhar, rapeseed & mustard, castor, many vegetables etc. There is a need for promoting joint venture collaborations between industry and national and international institutions related to seed. if Government also extends the benefit of subsidy to truthfully labeled seed of promising hybrid produced by the private sector, may be beneficial for seed sector. Sharing of germplasm is imperative for crop improvement,while the national repository makes available the germplasm to the researchersand national seed companies, the private sector must also come forward and share their valuable germplasm with the public sector institutions for research purpose. Also these need to be stored in the Gene Bank for posterity. Innovation and adoption of biotechnology and nanotechnology would be critical for desired impact on livelihood of resource poor small holder farmers. Application of biotechnology should be focused to develop new improved varieties particularly resistant to biotic and abiotic stresses.

Production / Availability Of Certified/Quality Seed 
                                                                            Qty. In Million  Tonnes
  X Plan period XI Plan
CROP 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09
WHEAT 0.3150 0.3653 0.4783 0.4001 0.4568 0.6700 0.8768
PADDY 0.2921 0.3228 0.3156 0.367 0.4035 0.5354 0.6654
MAIZE 0.0455 0.1025 0.0815 0.0886 0.0808 0.0553 0.0740
JOWAR 0.0366 0.039 0.0352 0.0411 0.0348 0.0278 0.0274
BAJRA 0.0263 0.0347 0.0284 0.0349 0.0243 0.0244 0.0261
RAGI 0.0025 0.0027 0.0027 0.0026 0.0028 0.003 0.0036
BARLEY 0.0052 0.0062 0.0071 0.0054 0.0072 0.0241 0.0231
CEREAL TOTAL 0.7232 0.8732 0.9488 0.9397 1.0101 1.3400 1.6964
GRAM 0.0245 0.0258 0.0327 0.0296 0.057 0.0608 0.0835
LENTIL 0.0031 0.0043 0.0047 0.0041 0.0026 0.0063 0.0059
PEAS 0.0036 0.0062 0.0065 0.0034 0.0044 0.0115 0.0130
URD 0.0134 0.0165 0.0138 0.0207 0.0146 0.0179 0.0314
MOONG 0.0096 0.0094 0.0114 0.019 0.0163 0.0169 0.0248
ARHAR 0.0086 0.0086 0.0085 0.0099 0.0119 0.0167 0.0175
COWPEA 0.0012 0.0009 0.001 0.0011 0.0013 0.0017 0.0024
MOTH 0.0003 0.0002 0.0004 0.0006 0.0006 0.0006 0.0020
OTHERS 0.0003 0.0002 0.0002 0.0003 0.0013 0.0018 0.0026
PULSES TOTAL 0.0646 0.721 0.0792 0.0887 0.1101 0.1341 0.1830
GROUNDNUT 0.0730 0.101 0.0682 0.1119 0.1114 0.1762 0.3187
RAPE/MUST. 0.0105 0.0108 0.0164 0.016 0.0197 0.0196 0.0207
TIL 0.0022 0.0017 0.0018 0.0023 0.0021 0.002 0.0028
SUNFLOWER 0.0107 0.0118 0.0103 0.0133 0.0102 0.0111 0.0059
SOYABEAN 0.0662 0.0952 0.1181 0.1478 0.1348 0.1691 0.1801
LINSEED 0.0001 0.0002 0.0001 0.0001 0.0002 0.0003 0.0003
CASTOR 0.0044 0.0051 0.0045 0.0056 0.0063 0.0056 0.0056
SAFFLOWER 0.0010 0.0012 0.001 0.0013 0.0008 0.0009 0.0007
NIGER/others 0 0.0003 0 0.0006 0.0002 0.0001
OILSEEDS TOTAL 0.1681 0.227 0.2207 0.2983 0.2861 0.3851 0.5350
COTTON 0.0367 0.0307 0.0301 0.0288 0.0256 0.0261 0.0272
JUTE 0.002 0.0022 0.002 0.0052 0.0037 0.008 0.0042
MESTA/OTHER 0.005 0.0001 0.0001 0.0002 0.0006 0.0018 0.0047
FIBRE TOTAL 0.0437 0.033 0.0322 0.0342 0.0299 0.0358 0.0361
POTATO 0.038 0.037 0.0397 0.0417 0.0415 0.0435 0.0430
OTHERS 0.002 0.0015 0.0021 0.0025 0.0041 0.0047 0.0100
GRAND TOTAL 1.0396 1.2438 1.3227 1.4051 1.4818 1.9431 2.5035

4. Role of Public & Private Seed Sector

The private sector has started to play a significant role in the seed industry over the last few years. At present, the number of companies engaged in seed production or seed trade is of the order of 400 or 500. However, the main focus of private seed companies has been on the high value low volume seeds and market for low value high volume seeds seeds of cereals, pulses and oilseeds is still dominated by the public sector seed corporations. Private sector companies have a significant place mainly in the case of maize and sunflower and cotton. However, in the case of vegetable seeds and planting materials of horticultural crops, the private sector is the dominant player. As the private sector has not been enthusiastic about entering into seed production of high volume low margin crops of wheat, paddy, other cereals, oilseeds and pulses, the public sector seed corporations will continue to remain dominant in cereals, pulses and oilseeds for many more years to come. At present 15 State Seeds Corporation and 2 National level seeds Corporations
(National Seeds Corporation of India & State Farms Corporation of India) are functioning in the country. Besides, significant quantities of seeds are also produced by the State Departments of Agriculture, where the State Seeds corporations are not in existence. The contribution of private sector seed companies in total seed production of the country is depicted in the following table:
Year of Production Total Seed Production
(Lakh qtls.) Share of private sector
2003-04 132.27 47.48%
2004-05 140.51 45.02%
2005-06 148.18 46.80%
2006-07 194.31 41.00%
( Source : compiled by Seeds Division of DAC)
Major seed producing states are depicted in the following map

5. Variety Registration Procedures:
Each variety has to pass through 3 phases of evaluation. Breeders contribute their best entries on the basis of evaluation carried out in their local programmes for testing in the Initial Yield Evaluation Trial (IET) or Preliminary Yield Trial (PYT). These trials are organized in selected number of Places in each zone. Simultaneously, these entries are supplied to Pathologists to study their reaction to important diseases. Entries qualifying from yield, disease and quality point of view in IET/PYT are tested in the Uniform Regional Trials (URT). These trials are also called Advanced Varietal Trials (AVT) or Coordinated Varietal Trials (CVT). These trials are organized at a very large number of locations in each zone and the plot size is larger than that in IET. During the tests, reaction to various diseases, pests and quality traits are also studied. Entries found suitable in the second phase are again evaluated in the URT and simultaneously supplied to Pathologists, Entomologists, Nematologists, Agronomists and Quality Evaluation Groups to study the entries comprehensively for factors which are important from the point of view of their own discipline. Actual measurements are also made on other parameters. Agronomy group evaluates these entries for their adaptability to varied range of agronomic variables such as sowing dates, levels of fertilizers and number of irrigations etc. These are occasionally studied for their reaction to important herbicides. These tests are followed by a critical discussion in a crop workshop. A Special Committee of multi disciplinary scientists is constituted at the workshop to consider the proposals for identification of the varieties for release. Varieties evolved by the SAUs and Government Research Institutes are tested within the concerned States at limited locations. Central Seed Committee (CSC) pointed out in 1982 that varieties of State importance might also be tested in the concerned All India Crop Improvement Project. All the States are now submitting their samples for the coordinated trials though some have reservations of this decision. Concept of simultaneous testing of State varieties in the coordinated trials needs to be welcomed by the State Governments and their Research Institutes all over the country. Simultaneous testing of all State varieties along with the Central Varieties provides exposure to the State varieties to a wide range of environments. This will help to identify the varieties which are highly prone to diseases and pests and release of which may cause problems in some other States.
Identification of superior genotypes by Plant Breeder can benefit the public only if it is offered for commercial multiplication. It is therefore, necessary to maintain a system where quantities of promising genotype are made available for commercial production. This process is referred to as release of the varieties. The purpose of release system is to introduce newly evolved varieties to the public for general cultivation in the regions in which it is suitable. If serves as a guideline in the choice of varieties for cultivation in any region. The practice of official release of varieties started in October, 1964 with the formation of the Central Variety Release Committee (CVRC) at the Central level and State Variety Release Committee (SARC) at State level. CVRC functioned up to November, 1969 when its functions were taken over by the CSC established Seeds Act, 1966. The CSC constituted a Central Sub-committee on Crop Standards, Notification and Release of Varieties (CSC on CS, N&RV). The sub-committee discharges the functions of release and notification of varieties at Central level, while State Seed Sub-Committees (SSSCs) discharge similar function at State level. CSC and its Sub-committee have due representation for all the agencies involved in seed research, production and quality control namely State Governments, SCAs, SAUs, ICAR Institutes, Seed producing agency in public and private sector and seed farmers.

6. Varietal Protection in India:
India is signatory of World Trade Organization (WTO). WTO has at least half a dozen intergovernmental agreements that directly affect agriculture. Under the TRIPS Agreement Article 27(3) (b), which resulted from the negotiations of the Uruguay Round, requires members of protect plant varieties either by patents or by an effective ‘sui generis’ system of protection or by a combination of both these systems. In compliance to the TRIPS Agreement India established Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights (PPV&FR) Authority, under the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Act, 2001. PPV & FR Authority has become operational since 11th November, 2005. The objectives of the Authority are:
• Establishment of an effective system for protection of plant varieties, the rights of farmers and plant breeders and to encourage development of new varieties of plants.
• Recognition and protection of the rights of farmers in respect to their contribution in conserving, improving and making the available plant genetic resources for the development of new plant varieties.
• Accelerated agricultural development in the country by stimulation of investment for research and development both in public and private sector.
• Facilitate growth of seed industry to ensure the availability of quality seeds and planting material to the farmers.
Any of the following persons can make an application to the PPV & FRA for registration of a variety:-
i) Any person claimed to be a breeder of a variety.
ii) Any person being the assignee of the breeder of a variety.
iii) Any farmer or group of farmers or community of farmers claiming to be the breeder of a variety.
iv) Any University or publicly funded agricultural institution claiming to be breeder of a variety.
PPV & FR Authority shall maintain a National Register of Plant Varieties. The certificate of Registration shall be valid for a 9 years in the case of trees and vines and six years in case of other crops. The total period of variety shall not exceed 18 years for trees and vines and 15 years for extant varieties notified under Seeds Act and for other crops. PPV & FR Authority shall invite claims for beneficiary in respect of any variety for which registration has been granted. The PPV & FR Authority shall determine beneficiary on the basis of following:-
a) The extent and nature of the use of genetic material of the claimant.
b) Commercial utility and demand in market of the variety relating to which benefit has been claimed.
The benefit determined by the PPV & FR Authority shall be deposited by the breeder with the National Gene Fund. The amount of benefit sharing shall be recoverable as arrear of land revenue. Certificate of Registration shall confer an exclusive right on the breeder, his successor, his agent or licensee the right to produce, sell, market, distribute, import or export the variety.
Farmer who has developed or bred a new variety shall be entitled for registration as a breeder of a variety. Farmer shall be deemed to be entitled to save, use, sow, re-sow, exchange, share or sell his farm produce including seed of a variety protected under this Act in the same manner as he was entitled before coming into force of this Act provided that the farmer shall not be entitled to sell branded seed of a variety protected under this Act. Farmers’ variety shall be entitled for registration.
Farmer who is engaged in the conservation of genetic resources of land basis and wild relatives of economic plans and their improvement and preservation shall be entitled to recognition and reward from the Gene Fund provided the material so selected and preserved has been used as a donor of genes in varieties register able under the PPV & FR Act. Any person or group of persons (whether actively engaged in farming or not) or any other Governmental or Non-governmental organization may stake a claim on behalf of the village or local community.
There is a provision for compulsory licensing to meet the reasonable requirement of the public for seed or other propagating material.
Further information can be accessed from the PPV&FR Authority’s official website

7. Seed Certification System in India:
In general, seed certification is a process designed to maintain and make available to the general public continuous supply of high quality seeds and propagating materials of notified kinds and varieties of crops, so grown and distributed to ensure the physical identity and genetic purity. Seed certification is a legally sanctioned system for quality control of seed multiplication and production.
(i) History of Seed Certification
The origin of the concept of seed certification dates back to the earlier part of the twentieth century. The seed certification concept grew out of the increased concern for the rapid loss of identity of varieties during production cycles. For this, credit should go to the Swedish workers who are the first to initiate the process of field evaluation of the seed crops. It began with the visits of agronomists and plant breeders to the fields of progressive farmers who took the seeds of new varieties from the. This was primarily to educate them on seed production. This initiated the process of field inspection and later on found to be very helpful in keeping varieties pure in the production chain, but other problems appeared. To overcome some of these problems, scientists from USA and Canada met in Chicago, Illinois in 1919 and formed an International Crop Improvement Association (ICIA), which later on 1969 changed its name to Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA) paving the way for modern day seed certification.
In India the field evaluation of the seed crop and its certification started with the establishment of National Seeds Corporation in 1963. A legal status was given to seed certification with the enactment of first Indian Seed Act in the year 1966 and formulation of Seed Rules in 1968. The Seed Act of 1966 provided the required impetus for the establishment of official Seed Certification Agencies by the States. Maharashtra was the first State to establish an official Seed Certifications Agency during 1970 as a part of the Department of Agriculture, whereas Karnataka was the first State to establish the Seed Certification Agency as an autonomous body during 1974. At present 22 States in the country have their own Seed Certification Agencies established under the Seed Act, 1966. In great majority of the countries in the World, including India, seed certification is voluntary and labelling is compulsory.
(ii) Objective of Seed Certification
The main objective of the Seed Certification is to ensure the acceptable standards of seed viability, vigour, purity and seed health. A well organized seed certification should help in accomplishing the following three primary objectives.
• The systematic increase of superior varieties;
• The identification of new varieties and their rapid increase under appropriate
and generally accepted names.
• Provision for continuous supply of comparable material by careful maintenance.
(iii) Eligibility requirements for certification
Any variety to become eligible for seed certification should meet the following requirement:
• General requirements;
• Field standards;
• Specific requirements ;
• Seed Standards;
(iv) General requirements
• Should be a notified variety under Section-5 of the Indian Seed Act, 1966.
• Should be in the production chain and its pedigree should be traceable.
(v) Field standards
Field standards include the selection of site, isolation requirements, spacing, planting ratio, border rows etc.
(vi) Specific Requirements
Presence of off-types in any seed crop, pollen-shedders in Sorghum, Bajra, Sunflower etc., Shedding tassels in maize crosses, disease affected plants, objectionable weed plants etc., should be within the maximum permissible levels for certification.
(vii) Seed Certification Agencies
Seeds Act, 1966 provides for the establishment of Seed Certification Agencies in each State. Seed Certification Agency should function on the following broad principles:
• Seed Certification agency should be an autonomous body.
• Seed Certification Agency should not involve itself in the production and marketing of seeds.
• The Seed Certification Standards and procedures adapted by seed certification agency should be uniform, throughout the country.
• Seed Certification Agency should have close linkage with the technical and other related institutions.
• Its long-term objective should be to operate on no-profit no-loss basis.
• Adequate staff trained in seed certification should be maintained by the Certification Agency.
• It should have provision for creating adequate facilities for ensuring timely and through inspections.
• It should serve the interests of seed producers and farmers/users.
(viii) Organizational set-up of a Seed Certification Agency
Organization and establishment of a Seed Certification Agency needs careful planning. In planning one should take into consideration the pertinent data about anticipated acreage for certification of various crops/varieties, area of operation, farm sizes etc. The organizational set up of the Certification Agency includes Board of Directors, technical and other staff for operating the programme. Seed Certification Agency may have its own seed testing laboratory or it may get its seed samples tested through seed testing laboratories.
(ix) Seed certification consists of the following control measures:
An Administrative check on the origin of the propagating material: Source seed verification is the first step in Seed Certification Programme. Unless the seed is from approved source and of designated class certification agency will not accept the seed field for certification, thereby ensuring the use of high quality true to type seed for sowing of seed crops.
Field Inspection : Evaluation of the growing crop in the field for varietal purity, isolation of seed crop is to prevent out-cross, physical admixtures, disease dissemination and also ensure crop condition as regards to the spread of designated diseases and the presence of objectionable weed plants etc.
Sample inspection: assessing the planting value of the seeds by laboratory tests. Certification agency draws representative samples from the seeds produced under certification programme and subjects them to germination and other purity tests required for conforming to varietal purity.
Bulk Inspection: Under certification programme provision has been made for bulk inspection. Hence, the evaluation of the lot for the purpose of checking homogeneity of the bulk seed produced as compared with the standard sample is carried out. This gives an idea about the genuinity of lot and sample.
Control plot testing: Here the samples drawn from the source and final seed produced are grown side by side along with the standard samples of the variety in question. By comparison it can be determined whether the varietal purity and health of the produced seed are equal to the results based on field inspection.
Grow-out test: Evaluation of the seeds for their genuineness to species or varieties or seed borne infection. Here the samples drawn from the lots are grown in the field along with the standard checks. Growing plants are observed for the varietal purity. Grow-out test helps in the elimination of the sub-standard seed lots.
(x) Phases of Seed Certification
Seed Certification is carried out in six broad phases listed as under:
i. Verification of seed source, class and other requirements of the seed used for raising the seed crop.
ii. Receipt and scrutiny of application.
iii. Inspection of the seed crop in the field to verify its conformity to the prescribed field standards.
iv. Supervision at post-harvest stages including processing and packing.
v. Drawing of samples and arranging for analysis to verify conformity to the seed standards; and
vi. Grant of certificate, issue of certification tags, labelling, sealing etc.

8. Seed Export / Import
The export/import of seeds and planting material is governed by the Export and Import ( EXIM) Policy 2002-07 and amendment made therein. Restrictions on export of all cultivated varieties of seeds have been removed w.e.f. 01.04.2002, except the following:
(i) breeder or foundation or wild varieties;
(ii) onion, berseem, cashew, nux vomica, rubber, pepper cuttings, sandalwood, saffron, neem,
forestry species and wild ornamental plants;
(iii) export of niger which is canalized through TRIFED, NAFED, etc.
(iv) groundnuts, exports of which is subject to compulsory registration of contract with APEDA;
The export of these seeds is restricted and is only allowed on case-to-case basis under licence issued by Director General Foreign Trade on the basis of the recommendations of Department of Agriculture and Cooperation.
The provisions regarding import of seeds and planting material are as under:
(a) import of seeds/tubers/bulbs/cuttings/saplings of vegetables, flowers and fruits is allowed without a
licence in accordance with import permit granted under Plant Quarantine (Order), 2003 and
amendment made therein.
(b) import of seeds, planting materials and living plants by ICAR, etc. is allowed without a licence in
accordance with conditions specified by the Ministry of Agriculture;
(c) import of seeds/tubers of potato, garlic, fennel, coriander, cumin, etc. is allowed in accordance with
import permit granted under PQ Order, 2003.
(d) import of seeds of wheat, rye, barley, oat, maize, rice, millet, jowar, bajra, ragi, other cereals,
soybean, groundnut, linseed, palmnut, cotton, castor, sesamum, mustard, safflower, clover, jojoba,
etc. is allowed without licence subject to the New Policy on Seed Development, 1988 and in
accordance with import permit granted under PQ Order, 2003.
The EXIM Policy reiterates that all imports of seeds and planting material would be regulated under the Plant Quarantine Order 2003. Import licences would be granted by DGFT only on the recommendations of DAC. A small quantity of seeds sought to be imported would be given to ICAR, or farms accredited by ICAR, for trial and evaluation for one crop season. On receipt of applications for commercial import, DAC would consider the trial/evaluation report on the performance of the seed and their resistance to seed/soil borne diseases. DAC is required to either reject or recommend the application to DGFT for grant of import licence within 30 days of receipt. All importers have to make available a small specified quantity of the imported seeds to the ICAR at cost price for testing/accession to the gene bank of National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR). The import of seeds has to be cleared/rejected by Plant Protection Adviser (PPA) after quarantine checks within three weeks. The rejected consignment has to be destroyed. During quarantine, the imported consignment is kept in a bonded warehouse at the cost of the importer. While importing seeds and plating material, it has to be ensured that there is absolutely no compromise on plant quarantine procedures. Every effort has to be made to prevent the entry into India of exotic pests, diseases and weeds that are detrimental to the interests of the farmers.
An EXIM Committee was constituted in the Seeds Division to deal with application for exports/imports of seeds and planting materials in accordance with the New Policy on Seed Development and EXIM Regulations. The Committee meets every month, subject to tendency of proposals for import/export of seeds and planting material, and analyzes applications and furnishes recommendations to PPA/DGFT for issuing of otherwise of the licence for import/export of seeds and planting material. Exporters/importers are required to submit 20 copies of applications for export/import in the prescribed formats. The minutes of the EXIM Committee are posted on the Seednet Portal (
As per World Seed Trade Statistics, India has sixth largest size of domestic seed market in the world, estimated to be at about 1300 million dollars. However, India’s share in global trade in seeds (import & export) is of only about 37 million dollars only. To give a boost to seed export, India has decided to participate in OECD Seed Schemes for the following categories of crops:
• Grasses and legumes
• Crucifers and other oil or fibre species
• Cereals
• Maize and sorghum
• Vegetables
OECD Seed Schemes is one of the international frameworks available for certification of agricultural seeds moving in international trade. The objective of the OECD Seed Schemes is to encourage use of seeds of consistently high quality in participating countries. The Scheme authorizes use of labels and certificates for seed produced and processed for international trade according to agreed principles. The Joint Secretary (Seeds) in the Department of Agriculture & Cooperation has been nominated as the National Designated Authority. Further, Heads of Seed Certification Agencies in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttaranchal, Uttar Pradesh Haryana, Bihar and Assam have been nominated as the Designated Authorities under the Scheme to undertake certification work under OECD Seed Schemes. The department is in the process of completing other formalities under the OECD Seed Scheme guidelines before the certification work gets started.

9. Conclusion :
The Indian Seed Improvement Programme is backed up by a strong crop improvement programme in both the public and private sectors. At the moment, the industry is highly vibrant and energetic and is well recognized in the international seed arena. Several developing and neighbouring countries have benefited from quality seed imports from India. India’s Seed Programme has a strong seed production base in terms of diverse and ideal agro-climates spread through out the country for producing high quality seeds of several tropical, temperate and sub-tropical plant varieties in enough quantities at competitive prices. Over the years, several seed crop zones have evolved with extreme levels of specialization.
Similarly, for post harvest handing, the Indian seed processing/conditioning industry has perfected the techniques of quality up-gradation and maintenance to ensure high standards of physical condition and quality. By virtue of the diverse agro-climates several geographical zones in the country have emerged as ideal seed storage locations under ambient conditions. In terms of seed marketing and distribution, more than about 20000 seed dealers and distributors are in the business.
Over the years, seed quality specifications comparable to international standards have been evolved and are adopted by the Indian Seed Programme in both the public and private sectors. The country has a strong rigorous mechanism for seed quality control through voluntary seed certificate and compulsory labelling monitored by provincial level Seed Law Enforcement Agencies. For seed technology research, India has a national level Directorate under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research as well as Status level research set up in the State Agricultural Universities. In seed education, 4-5 prominent State Agricultural Universities offer post graduation in Seed Technology leading to M.Sc./Ph.D Degree. The seed industry has three well reputed national level associations apart from several provincial level groups to take care of the interests of the industry.
Thus, the Indian Seed Programme is now occupying a pivotal place in Indian agriculture and is well poised for continued growth in the years to come. National Seeds Corporation, which is the largest single seed organization in the country with such a wide product range, pioneered the growth and development of a sound industry in India. NSC, SFCI, States Seeds Corporations and other seed producing agencies are continuously and gradually expanding all its activities especially in terms of its product range, volume and value of seed handled, level of seed distribution to the un-reached areas, etc. Over the past four decades, these seed producing agencies have built up a hard core of competent and experienced seed producers and seed dealers in various parts of the country and have adequate level of specialization and competence in handling and managing various segments of seed improvement on scientifically sound and commercially viable terms.