About three dozen companies involved in procurement and distribution of Bt cotton seeds in the state have categorically refused to raise the procurement price despite the input and labour cost for farmers having witnessed a sharp rise owing to inflation and other factors.
The seed distributing companies are adamant against any increase despite the fact that the state government has allowed them an MRP hike range between Rs 750 per 450 gms and Rs 930 per 450 gms or more than Rs 1860 per kg, a total of 30 per cent increase, for the last one year.
But the companies are still paying the procurement price of Rs 330 per kg to the farmers, who are mostly located in the tribal belt of Banaskantha, Sabarkantha and North Gujarat. Farmers have been demanding that the price of Bt cotton seeds produced by them be increased to Rs 430 per kg to meet the increased cost of inputs.
Though most of them work themselves on the fields and don’t employ labour from outside, they say the cost of material used by them have gone up.
Though none of the seed distributing companies were ready to comment, an official of the Gandhinagar-based Vikram Seeds Limited said on the condition of anonymity that the demand of farmers was genuine and must be considered.
The official said that the companies in all would have to pay an arrear of at least Rs 125 crore to the farmers if the procurement price was raised from the date MRP was raised by the distributing companies.
Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) president Maganbhai Patel said his organisation had taken up the matter with the state government, but in vain. Asked what he planned to do now, Patel said he would ask the seed producing farmers not to sell it to the seed companies but to the cotton growers directly.
Rashtriya Kisan Dal (RKD) secretary H K Thakar said the state government must intervene immediately to ensure fair price to Bt cotton seed producers.
When contacted, state Agriculture Minister Dilip Sanghani said he had discussed the matter with the seed distributing companies and asked them to raise the procurement price. “But they refused and the state government finds itself helpless as it is an issue concerned with the central government,” said Sanghani.
According to farm associations and the local chapter of the National Seeds Association of India, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh are the biggest producers of Bt cotton seeds in the country and its annual turnover in Gujarat alone amounted to thousands of crores of rupees.
Gujarat accounts for 80 per cent of India’s total cotton production. In terms of quantity, around 92 lakh bales of cotton is produced annually in Gujarat and the state is expected to keep the commitment as it received good monsoon this year.