Cottonseed pricing: Spat between seeds body and companies intensifies

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HYDERABAD, FEBRUARY 24:
The spat between the National Seed Association of India (NSAI) and a group of members that include Monsanto and Mahyco Monsanto Biotech (India) Private Limited (MMBL) deepened further. The war of words, which began ever since the Union Government promulgated the Cottonseed Price Control Order, continues.

Compensation sought

The NSAI has asked MMBL to admit and declare that Bollgard-II technology can’t give protection against the pink bollworm due to development of resistance by the insect or face huge claims of compensation from farmers.

“If such declaration is not made, there can be huge claims of compensation running to substantial amounts that might go beyond the financial strengths of the member companies,” Kalyan B Goswami, Executive Director of NSAI, has said.

In a three-page letter to the BG technology provider in India, the NSAI had said that it had begun to receive letters from seed regulators, seeking explanation and, in certain cases, compensation for the loss suffered by farmers.

Members divided

The two influential groups of NSAI are at logger heads, expressing their stands in exchange of letters to one another and to the government. The NSAI supported the recent Central Order that sought to control the cottonseed prices across the nation, while the other group opposed this stand.

“Even if there is a damage of 2-3 quintals an acre, the claims could run up to ₹10,000 an acre against the seed cost of about ₹2,000. Compare this against a margin of ₹400/acre the companies make. In case you choose not to declare that the bollworm developed resistance to BG-II, we request you to take the responsibility for any compensation claims that might arise from the cotton crop sown in 2016-17,” it said.

Meanwhile, 11 top players in the cottonseed industry, mostly multi-national firms, have told the Union government that they are not party to the NSAI campaign in support of the Price Control Order.

11 companies oppose

Avoiding a direct opposition to the price control order, they argued that the firms invested heavily on research and development of seeds and that they should be rewarded accordingly. The NSAI had openly backed the Order, saying that it would help solve the ambiguity in ascertaining the seed price for ever in the country.

The 11 firms asked the government to take into consideration their views, while taking decisions that would impact the industry.

In a letter to the Joint Secretary (Seeds), the firms have alleged that the NSAI (National Seed Association of India) platform was being misused to serve the interests of a few companies.

The letter was signed by Shivendra Bajaj of ABLE-AG on behalf of Monsanto, Mahyco, BASF, Bayer, Dow, DuPontPioneer, Syngenta and Rasi Seeds, Metahelix, Namdhari and Bioseed.

“We request the government not go by the representations being made by the current leadership of NSAI, while taking decisions that restrict the creation of intellectual property in the Indian seed industry. Their stand would eventually harm the interests of Indian farmers,” Bajaj said.

“We have written to the NSAI President expressing our strong disagreement with the association’s stand. We want to put on record that the NSAI statements do not represent the views of a large majority of seed companies and members of NSAI like us. We strongly believe that innovative research should be incentivised to create value for farmers,” Shivendra Bajaj said.

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