Bt cotton seed producers have called for uniform pricing of seed packets sold across key growing states, including Punjab, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Karnataka. They made the proposal at the first meeting of the agriculture ministry-appointed price control committee for deciding on maximum sale price (MSP) for the seed.
At present, a Bt cotton seed packet costs Rs 1,000 in Punjab and Haryana, and Rs 830 and Rs 930 in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, respectively. Sources told FE that uniform seed price would help the 60-odd seed companies in investing in developing new hybrid cotton seed varieties.
In December, the agriculture ministry issued a price control order to bring uniformity in Bt cotton seed prices, as several states such as Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have brought in price control orders. The other reason, according to the ministry, was to make Bt cotton seeds affordable.
Last month, the agriculture ministry appointed a nine-member committee to decide on the MSP of genetically modified Bt cotton seeds. Sources also said the committee is likely to come out with MSP in the next few weeks.
Mahyco Monsanto Biotech (MMBL), a joint venture between Mahyco and Monsanto, had earlier petitioned the Delhi High Court to quash certain provisions in the price control order, specifically those allowing the Centre to determine
royalty fee. Such fee is determined by private contracts between technology providers and seed companies who use the technology.
Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh had earlier imposed price controls on Bt cotton seeds including the “trait fee” charged by the US-based multinational Monsanto which has proprietary rights over the gene (Bacillus thuringiensis) that accords the Bt cotton its pest-resistant property.
In a representation to the agriculture ministry, National Seed Association of India, consisting of seed companies, has stated that due to price regulation by state governments and unregulated trait value fixation by technology provider, the seed companies have suffered erosion of profitability. “Such erosion of profitability can severely constrain the investments in new hybrid development,” NSA stated in a letter to the agriculture ministry’s price control committee.