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Govt firm on regulating cotton seed prices: Agri Minister

Govt firm on regulating cotton seed prices: Agri Minister
Trouble is mounting for US biotechnology major Monsanto as Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led NDA government has decided to keep regulating cotton seed prices. Clearing government’s stand, Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh on Monday said that the NDA government would not allow companies like Monsanto to exploit farmers.

The Centre in December had issued an order to control cotton seed prices, including trait or royalty value, effective from 2016-17 crop year (July-June). Last month, the government for the first time had fixed a uniform price of Rs 800 per packet for Bt cotton seed, including a small royalty of Rs 49 — a move that will benefit farmers, but hit the Indian business of Monsanto.

“It (Monsanto) is a good company. We respect them but that does not mean you loot farmers and charge any price because you have knowledge. Be it seed or pharma, we will continue to regulate prices, whenever required,” Singh said while addressing a two-day Kharif conference here.

The trait value has been reduced by over 70 per cent for the season 2016-17 starting next month despite Monsanto’s threat to quit the country.

The company had last month warned of re-evaluating its presence in India and holding back new technology if the government cuts trait fee of Bt cotton seeds drastically through “arbitrary and potentially destructive” interventions.

Mayhco Monsanto Biotech Ltd (MMBL), a joint venture firm of Monsanto, had challenged the government’s seed control order in the Delhi High Court in December. The MMBL has sub-licenced Bt cotton seed technology since 2002 to various domestic seed companies. Farmers bought Bt cotton seeds in the price range of Rs 830-1,000 per packet (450 gram) across the country in 2015-16 season.

Meanwhile, fair trade regulator Competition Commission of India (CCI) has also launched a probe against MMBL for alleged abuse of market dominance after it received complaints from the industry as well as from the farmer wing of BJP.
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