India cuts Bt cotton seed prices to Rs740 per packet

New Delhi: In a move that will benefit over 8 million cotton growers in India, the agriculture ministry late on Monday slashed the price of genetically modified Bt cotton seeds to Rs740 per packet from Rs800 per packet earlier.

Alongside, the ministry also reduced the trait or royalty fees payable by domestic companies to technology developer Monsanto Mahyco Biotech (India) Ltd to Rs39 per packet from Rs49 earlier.

A packet of Bollgard II Bt cotton seeds weigh 450 grams. The new prices will come into effect from the upcoming Kharif crop season beginning in June.

the likely government move to offer some respite to cotton farmers battered by repeated pest attacks and crop losses. The domestic seed industry pegs the losses arising out of the price cut at around Rs300 crore, as 50 million cotton seed packets are usually sold in a year.

The falling margins in cotton seed production will definitely impact seed supply and availability for farmers, said Kalyan Goswami, director general of industry lobby National Seed Association of India.

In March 2016, the agriculture ministry, on the recommendation of a nine-member panel, slashed prices to Rs800 per packet, compared with Rs830-1,000 charged earlier—and cut royalty fees sharply by over 70%. Last year, prices were kept unchanged.

India approved the genetically modified Bt cotton technology for commercial cultivation in 2002. Following the introduction of Bt cotton and its efficacy in resisting bollworm pest attacks, India became a leading exporter of cotton globally. However, in recent years, Bt cotton fields have seen repeated pest attacks and crop losses—in Punjab in 2015 and in Maharashtra last year.livemint