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This Plant Breeder’s Low-Cost Solution Can Save India Rs 100 Crore Every Year!

Every year, India imports papaya seeds of the Red Lady Dwarf (RLD) variety worth Rs 100 crores from a Taiwan-based company.

However, veteran plant breeder KK Subramani, who has developed an F1 hybrid variety of the same in India, believes that things are soon going to change, and the country will soon be saving valuable foreign exchange.
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Subramani is the founder and backbone of the Mandya-based Agrimaa Bioscience, a firm that has a rich and varied experience of breeding papaya and marigold. He had founded Ceekay Seeds and Seedlings which was acquired by France-based Limagrain, the fourth largest seed company in the world.

A majority of Indian farmers grow the Red Lady Dwarf variety, which is also known as the ‘Taiwan 786’ papaya, due to its exceptional quality and long shelf life.

The plant takes only eight months to fruit, with the total yield reaching 60 kg per plant. The pear-shaped, yellow coloured fruit remains in excellent condition, 15 days from harvest. Interestingly, Indian farmers pay Rs 3,00,000 for a kilo of seeds, numbering around 48,000 pieces.

The annual world production of the fruit that originated in southern Mexico and Costa Rica is estimated at 6 million tonnes, of which India’s share is 3 million tonnes.

The area under papaya cultivation in India increased by 63% from 45.2 thousand hectares in 1991-92 to 73.7 thousand hectares in 2001-02.

Of the 12 varieties grown in India, RLD has the largest area under cultivation. Cultivated in the States of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat, Orissa, West Bengal, Assam, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, India exports papaya mainly to the Gulf Nations. According to this report ( in 2016, India imported papaya seeds worth around Rs 5.6 crores.

A unique crop, Papaya bears both male and female flowers, and the sex of the plants is revealed only when it flowers, i.e. 4.5 months after planting. Papaya seeds have very low germination and lose viability very fast. Further, the crop is highly prone to viral diseases, and there exists no naturally occurring virus-resistant papaya genotype.

“2,000 kg of seeds worth several crores have been imported in the last 30 years,” says Subramani (57), a plant breeder of repute who has worked with national and international seed companies.

“Imagine how much foreign exchange the country is losing!” he exclaims.

Papaya is available throughout the year, and besides being eaten as a vegetable and a fruit, papain, an enzyme prepared from the dried latex of its raw fruits, is used in meat tendering, manufacturing chewing gum, cosmetics, degumming silk and to give shrink resistance to wool.


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