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Empowering Bangladesh’s Farmers: Groundbreaking Partnership to Boost Eggplant Agriculture and Private Sector Engagement

By March 24, 2024March 25th, 2024No Comments

In a significant stride toward sustainable agriculture in Bangladesh, a newly announced partnership aims to introduce new pest-resistant and disease-tolerant eggplant hybrid varieties that foster enhanced food security while safeguarding the health of farmers and the environment.

A landmark licensing agreement supported by the Feed the Future Insect-Resistant Eggplant Partnership unites two local industry leaders—ACI in Bangladesh and ACSEN Agriscience with Rasi Seeds—to usher in a new era of eggplant farming for Bangladesh. The partnership aims to couple the benefits of high-yielding and wilt-tolerant hybrids with the insect-resistance of Bt eggplant in varieties that can be cultivated during both winter and summer seasons. Hybrid seeds are agricultural products produced by manual pollination to develop new varieties. This initiative is structured to deliver superior agricultural benefits for farmers and foster economic growth in Bangladesh.

Bt eggplant, known as Bt brinjal in Bangladesh, has been under commercial cultivation since 2014. Over this period, the four available Bt brinjal varieties have increased farmer incomes and mitigated environmental damage associated with excessive pesticide use. Bt brinjal harnesses the benefits of a gene found in a common soil bacterium that provides resistance to the Eggplant Fruit and Shoot Borer (EFSB) pest,which can lead to up to 90% crop loss. Several studies have shown that Bt brinjal’s natural resistance allows farmers to significantly reduce pesticide spraying, resulting in substantial cost savings and a decrease in pesticides leaching into the surrounding environment.

However, because bacterial wilt is prevalent during the warm, humid summer season, current Bt brinjal varieties in Bangladesh can only be cultivated during the winter. Current hybrid brinjal varieties developed by both ACI and ACSEN exhibit resistance to bacterial wilt and superior agronomic traits but remain highly susceptible to EFSB infestations.

The licensing agreement kicks off with eight farmer-preferred hybrids that integrate the advantageous Bt gene and feature inherent resistance to bacterial wilt. A comprehensive two-year testing and evaluation phase under controlled field conditions is scheduled within  Bangladeshi biosafety guidelines. 

“Over the last two and a half  decades, ACI has delivered unmatched value to Bangladesh farmers via access to high-quality seeds. Introducing the advantages of Bt technology to farmers cultivating hybrid brinjal is a major step in addressing the pressing issue faced by brinjal growers, who currently endure excessive pesticide sprays,” said F H Ansarey, president of ACI Agribusiness. “We look forward to addressing this challenge in partnership with ACSEN Bangladesh to deliver seeds that can help resource poor farmers earn more and safeguard their health.”

“We are delighted to partner with ACI Bangladesh to bring insect-resistant brinjal hybrids that can truly address the challenge of high pest incidence faced by Bangladeshi farmers,” said Senthilnathan Senguttuvan, chairman of ACSEN Agriscience, Bangladesh. “This step will provide farmers with sustainable higher income from cultivation of Bt Brinjal hybrids and ensure due compliance to the regulatory review of the product in Bangladesh.” 

This strategic partnership not only signifies a revolutionary step toward a more resilient and sustainable future for Bangladeshi agriculture but also underscores the commitment to fostering private sector engagement, aligning with the broader goals of agricultural development initiatives.

“For the past several years, every time I visit eggplant fields, Bangladeshi farmers say they love Bt brinjal’s resistance to EFSB but want new varieties with superior agronomics that are resistant to wilt and can be grown year-round,” said Maricelis Acevedo, research professor in Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and project director for the Feed the Future Insect-Resistant Eggplant Partnership. “During that same time, Bangladesh has seen an increase in hybrid adoption for many vegetable crops. The private sector investment will mean Bt brinjal is able to respond to farmer demands and secure farmer access to superior quality seeds of high-yielding Bt Brinjal in many market-preferred classes.”

For Media Inquiries:

Reach out to the Feed the Future Insect-Resistant Eggplant Partnership at btbrinjal@cornell.edu.

The Insect-Resistant Eggplant Partnership (IREP) is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) as part of the Feed the Future Initiative, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative. IREP’s goal is to enhance food and nutritional security in Bangladesh and the Philippines while protecting the health of people and the environment. It is the latest in a series of USAID-funded projects led by Cornell that have strengthened capacity to develop and disseminate Bt eggplant in the Philippines and Bangladesh.

Rasi Seeds, an Indian company with a 50-year history and a projected revenue of $203 million for fiscal year 2022-2023, holds the distinction of having the largest acreage under Bt cotton globally, surpassing even Bayer. Renowned as a leader in biotechnology, the company boasts a well-established infrastructure that facilitates the adoption of cutting-edge tools and technologies for the development of innovative products.

ACSEN Agriscience, operating in both India and Bangladesh, serves as the vegetable seed arm of Rasi Seeds in Bangladesh. The company boasts a robust research and development infrastructure, enabling it to continually innovate and create products that meet the dynamic market demands in the realm of vegetable crops. Notably, ACSEN Agriscience in Bangladesh has successfully developed Brinjal products with proven resistance to wilt, making them suitable for cultivation in all seasons across the country.

Established in 1998, ACI in Bangladesh stands as the largest indigenous seed company in the country, with a noteworthy Taka 2 Billion in revenue from its seed business. As part of the ACI group, the largest agribusiness group in Bangladesh, the company leverages its robust research and development capabilities to enhance crop yield, quality, sustainability, and resilience. Presently, ACI markets an impressive total of 110 varieties spanning 39 vegetable crops, including 36 varieties from 12 crops developed through its own research and development initiatives. Through partnerships with international seed companies, ACI efficiently distributes high-quality seeds in the market, leveraging its robust supply chain.