Won’t allow firms such as Monsanto to exploit farmers: Radha Mohan Singh, Agriculture Minister

NEW DELHI: Agriculture minister RadhaMohan Singh has said that the government will not allow companies such as MonsantoBSE -2.61 % to exploit farmers and it willcontinue to regulate prices of seeds and pharmaceuticals.

“Monsanto is a good company. It has knowledge, but it doesn’t mean you loot farmer and charge any price,” Singh said on April 11 while addressing a two-day conference in Delhi on kharif sowing season. Knowledge has no value, he said.

The minister asked government officials to keep a check on prices of seeds and anymonopolistic activity which impacts farmers’ lives. “We will have to ensure that whether it is price of seed or pharmaceutical, no one fixes prices as they want it. We will continue to regulate prices, whenever required,” he said.

There should be competition between companies to sell products, Singh said.

The spokesperson of American company Monsanto declined to comment on the matter.

In December last year the government had issued an order to control cotton seed prices, including trait or royalty value, effective from 2016-17 crop year (July-June). Following this, the government has capped the price of Bt cotton seeds, rebuffing Monsanto, which had threatened to review business plans and withhold new technology if controls were imposed on the technology fee it charges.

As per the new recommendation Bt cotton seeds packets of 450 gram are to be sold at a maximum price of Rs 635 for Bollgard I version and Rs 800 for Bollgard II. The trait value (or technology fee) including taxes has been cut to Rs 49 from Rs 183.46 per packet. The packet of seeds was earlier being sold at prices such as Rs 1,000 in Punjab and Haryana, Rs 830 in Maharashtra and Rs 930 in Telangana.

The next hearing for Mayhco Monsanto Biotech Ltd (MMBL), a joint venture firm of Monsanto, which had challenged the government’s seed control order in the Delhi High Court in December, has been scheduled for May 12.