Seed companies in Maharashtra — that were looking forward to a price hike on BT cotton seeds ahead of the coming kharif season — are on the backfoot. State agriculture minister Eknath Khadse has instead directed the companies to reduce seed prices by Rs 100 per packet in view of drought conditions in the state. The state government also intends to convert this into a legal decision with provision for punishment in case of violation.
At the review meeting on the kharif season, the government issued a stern warning that sale of seeds will not be allowed unless the companies comply with the order.
The seed companies are not happy with the decision and want the government to at least maintain prices at Rs 930 per packet of 450 gm, citing increase in production costs. A delegation led by National Seed Association of India (NSAI) recently met the minister with the intention of seeking a price hike, but met with a negative response after the government sought a report from the state agriculture department and found that seed prices in the state were already high.
Maharashtra is the biggest seller of BT cotton seeds in the country. Seed companies in the state do a business of 1.5 crore BT cotton seeds annually with turnover touching around Rs 7,000 crore.
“The prices of almost every commodity have risen in the last four years, except for BT cotton. Since the cost of production has gone up, it will be difficult for companies to reduce prices or they will go into loss. As a result, no new research will take place on new seed varieties, which may lead to shortage of BT cotton seeds in the future,” MG Shembekar, vice-president, NSAI, said.
According to him, the governments of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have fixed seed prices at Rs 930 per packet under the Cotton Act, and in the north (Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan) prices are at Rs 1,000 per packet.
Therefore, prices in Maharashtra should be maintained at Rs 930 per packet. The association is yet to take a formal decision on this issue.