Centre to control Bt cotton seed prices by fixing MRP

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New Delhi, Dec 13: The Centre has decided to control prices of cotton seeds including the genetically modified versions by fixing a uniform maximum sale price from March 2016, a move that would deal a major blow to global hybrid seed company Monsanto.

It has also decided to fix and regulate the seed value and licensee fee including royalty or trait value, according to a notification issued by the Agriculture Ministry.

btcotton

Currently, Bt cotton seed is sold at different rates across the country. In Punjab and Haryana, it is priced at Rs 1,000 per packet of 450 grams, while it is Rs 830 in Maharasthra and Rs 930 in six states including Andhra Pradesh.

In the notification dated December 7, the Agriculture Ministry said the Cotton Seeds Price (Control) Order has been issued for "uniform regulation" of sale price of cotton seeds with existing and future genetically modified technologies.

The aim is to ensure cotton seeds are available to farmers at "fair, reasonable and affordable prices" and there is uniform rates for cotton seeds across the country, it said.

The decision follows several representation by farmers and the National Seed Association of India for regulating sale price of Bt cotton and other varieties in the country.

As per the notification, MRP of the cotton seed will be notified in the Official Gazette on or before March 31 of every year applicable for the next financial year.

A seven-member committee will recommend MRP of cotton seed after taking into account the seed value, license fee which includes one time and recurring royalty (trait value), trade margins and other taxes, it added.

While the National Seed Association of India hailed the development but Mahyco Monsanto Biotech (India) Ltd (MMBL) a joint venture arm of Monsanto India, expressed disappointment.

"By further regulating price and license fees, the order will suppress innovation and deprive farmers of new technologies and a competitive market place for their inputs," a MMBL spokesperson said.

Contrary to the government’s professed desire to enhance ease of doing business, the order also creates great unpredictability in the business environment by arbitrarily and unduly interfering with private contracts between technology providers and seed companies," he said.

MMBL remains confident that the government will take into account views of all stakeholders and will continue to encourage innovation in Indian agriculture, he added.

Indian farmers are seeking increasingly better technologies and other inputs that helps them grow their income and improve their livelihoods, not more regulation of prices, said MMBL, which has sub-licensed the Bt technology to 49 domestic seed firms.

Bt cotton is the only GM crop allowed for commercial cultivation in the country. Over the last decade, Bt cotton technology has been adopted on over 95 per cent of the country's cotton growing area, making India the second largest producer and exporter of cotton.

PTI 

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