In a bid to bypass the foreign currency shortage that forced halt the import of Bt Cotton seeds, the Indian based JK Agri Genetics Ltd. is negotiating to bring its patent and multiply Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) seeds in Ethiopia.
“An agreement is almost reached and the company will bring the Bt cotton technology to Ethiopia in a few months. We have plans to use the seeds for the next cultivation season,” said Mesele Mekuria, Cotton Development Director at the Ethiopian Textile Industry Development Institute (ETIDI).
According to Mesele, the Indian company is set to establish a sister company in Ethiopia, which will multiply the technology on its own farm in Ethiopia and supply the seeds to Ethiopian commercial farmers. This is mainly because the company is highly protective of the Bt cotton technology patent.
Bt cotton is a GMO variety that Ethiopia has commercialized after it was tested in confined areas and was authorized by the Ethiopian Environment, Forest and Climate Protection Commission.
The Indian company had supplied the seeds for commercial cotton farmers in Gambella two years ago. The farmers bought a kilogram of Bt cotton seed for USD 28, excluding its accessories.
Nonetheless, neither the farmers nor the Ethiopian government could come up with the large amount of foreign currency required to import the seeds. As a result, the importation stopped since last year.
Ethiopia relaxed its strict biodiversity laws five years ago with exception on consumable items. The indigenous cotton varieties in Ethiopia, which have served for three decades, failed to yield high productivity. Bt cotton was picked after it was proven to be able to resist ball warm, which damages the cotton vegetable when it begins to bud.
“Bt cotton is expensive but it can be compensated because it is highly productive. Only five kilograms of Bt cotton is needed per hectare, while it takes 20 kilograms if you plant local varieties. The germination rate of Bt cotton is recommendable. Many commercial cotton farmers prefer it with the forex shortage proving to be a problem,” said Mesele.