Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said on Monday that the government would not allow seed companies such as US biotechnology major Monsanto to exploit Indian farmers. The government would continue to regulate seed prices in the interest of growers, he added.
The minister’s comments sparked off a ‘sell’ in Monsanto India shares in the stock markets and the scrip closed at Rs 1,571.50 a share, down 2.61 per cent from the previous close.
Mahyco Monsanto Biotech Ltd (MMBL) is a joint venture between Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co. Ltd and Monsanto Holdings Pvt Ltd. It licenses seed technology to companies, which, in turn, market their hybrid seeds.
The Centre had in December 2015 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 fixed a uniform price of Rs 800 a 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. “Monsanto is a good company but you cannot loot farmers and charge arbitrarily. Be it seed or pharma, we will continue to regulate prices,” Singh said, while addressing a two-day kharif conference here on Monday.
Last month, Monsanto had warned it would re-evaluate its presence in India and hold back new technology if the government cuts trait fee of Bt cotton seeds. MMBL challenged the government’s seed control order in the Delhi High Court in December. 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 the 2015-16 season. Meanwhile, fair trade regulator Competition Commission of India has also launched a probe against MMBL for its alleged abuse of market dominance.