Agri ministry notifies MSP for Bt cotton seeds at Rs 800, trait fee down 70%

By: | Published: March 10, 2016 12:39 AM

The agriculture ministry on Wednesday notified maximum sale price (MSP) for widely-used Bollgard II (BG II) variety of Bt cotton seeds at Rs 800 per packet.

The agriculture ministry on Wednesday notified maximum sale price (MSP) for widely-used Bollgard II (BG II) variety of Bt cotton seeds at Rs 800 per packet. The MSP would be applicable across the country for 2016-17 season. This price includes trait fee of R49 per packet, down 70% from the current level, in what could hit multinational Monsanto hard.

The BG II seeds have hitherto been sold for R830 per packet in Maharashtra, R930 in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh and R1,100 in northern states such as Punjab and Haryana. Earlier, a committee set up by the ministry had recommended the above rates.

According to the December’s notification by the agriculture ministry, the decision to put Bt cotton seeds under price control was taken in view of farmers finding the seeds “to be highly priced” and the need to bring “uniformity” in their prices across the country.

Last week, Monsanto had threatened to re-evaluate its presence in India and hold back new technology if the plan to reduce the trait value is not rolled back.

Mahyco Monsanto Biotech (MMBL), a joint venture between Monsanto and Maharashtra-based Mahyco, had moved the Delhi High Court against the move, arguing that the price control order is “illegal and unconstitutional”. The next hearings of the case is slated for March 23 and 28.

MMBL has sub-licensed Bt cotton seed technology since 2002 to various domestic seed companies. It is alleged that some of these companies have to pay MMBL some R450 crore after collecting the amount as trait value from the cotton farmers in kharif 2015.

“We are in process of examining the notification and will be able to comment only after we study the document in its entirety,” an MMBL spokesperson said.

The National Seed Association of India (NSAI) in a statement said that the farmers’ voice has been heard by agriculture ministry. “The BG II technology is facing redundancy on ground and NSAI has also represented for lowering the trait fee as the technology is meant to stop pink bollworm which is not working,” the statement said.

As many as 49 seed companies in the country use MMBL’s Bollgard-II double-gene technology, which provides in-built protection for cotton against the destructive American bollworm. The Centre’s move to regulate control prices of Bt cotton seeds and regulate the licensing of the technology followed steps taken by states like Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh on similar lines.

About 90% of the country’s cotton area of 11.8 million hectares (in the 2015-16 season) is under Bt cover. The country’s cotton production has risen manifold since the introduction of Bt seeds — from 13.6 million bales in 2002-03 to a projected 36.5 million bales in 2015-16.

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