Citing the case of cotton, in which the Centre has been fixing the maximum retail price of the seeds of Bt Cotton since 2016, the industry body in a memorandum to the government, has said “price control will result in scale back of research investments.”
Seed companies have opposed any kind of price control under the proposed Seed Bill, which may be taken up by Parliament in the winter session scheduled from November 18. The price control of seeds will stifle innovation and investment on research, the Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII) has said.
Citing the case of cotton, in which the Centre has been fixing the maximum retail price of the seeds of Bt Cotton since 2016, the industry body in a memorandum to the government, has said “price control will result in scale back of research investments.” The industry is firmly opposed to any kind of price control which is a regressive step, said Ram Kaundinya, director general of FSII.
In the Bill, power has been vested with both state and Centre to fix prices of seeds in case of emergency situation. While it is defined as a situation of seed shortage, abnormal increase in price, monopolistic pricing, profiteering, etc. as emergency, the industry body has said it is very subjective interpretation and prone to misuse. In case it is extremely important, the power should rest with only Centre, not state governments, Kaundinya said.
“There is really no reason to give these powers to states, who may not have the national perspective in mind when they take the decisions,” he said. A competitive industry with more than 400 companies will keep prices of seeds low, which account for less than 5% of the total cost of cultivation, he added.
Echoing similar sentiments, farmer leader Ajit Narde said, farmers will benefit more from technology infusion than any price control. He said Monsanto has refused to release its next level Bt Cotton after price control started and ultimately farmers are not getting the benefit of earning higher profits.
“We do not want cheap seeds. What we need is quality seeds which will increase our income. When there is no price control on any other sector, why the government puts curb on agriculture?,” asked Narde, who is head of technology cell of Shetkari Sangathana. He said freedom of market and technology are key to boost income of farmers and the government should not ban export of any agri commodity, including onion and tomato.
On the issue of allowing farmers to sell their own seeds without registration, the FSII has suggested some cap on quantity to distinguish between a farmer selling his own seeds and not working as an agent of a seed company without accountability. The bill has proposed mandatory registration of all seed varieties to bring greater accountability in the sector. The industry has sought exemption of export-oriented varieties from registration.