Drought fears make companies sell Bt cotton seed varieties at lower prices

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PUNE: Giving in to the mounting pressure from the drought-hit Maharashtra governmentto reduce prices of Bt cotton seeds, seed companies have offered to slash rates of select varieties.The onus is now on the state government to either approve the proposal or insist on its earlier demand that prices of Bt cotton seeds should be cut universally by Rs. 100/packet.
“In response to the appeal of the state government, all seed companies throughNational Seeds Association of India (NSAI) have offered to reduce rates of select varieties of Bt cotton seeds. We will submit this proposal to the government,” said MG Shembekar, VP, NSAI.

Bt cotton seed prices have been Rs. 930/packet for BG-II and Rs. 830/packet for BG-I varieties, respectively. However, practically, almost all the cotton is under BG-II.

A delegation of the seed industries met Maharashtra agriculture minister Eknath Khadse in May with a request to consider increase in Bt cotton seed prices, but the minister asked the delegation to consider a downward revision in prices due to the severe farm distress in the state on account of last year’s drought and damage caused to crops due to unseasonal rains.

Unlike other crops, there’s a separate state Act to control all aspects of Bt cotton seeds in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. This Act empowers states to also control seed prices.

However, as a case has been pending in the courts against the Act, the state government had been only appealing and threatening legal action against companies under other state Acts.

With the highest area under cotton cultivation in the country, the Maharashtra market is the most important for seed companies, accounting for one third of the total Bt cotton seed sale in the country.

Of the 4.5 crore packets of 450 gram sold in the country in 2014-15, Maharashtra accounted for about 1.5 crore packets.

The seed companies have offered to reduce rates of some varieties by Rs. 100/packet so that they can sell the seeds at three different price points — Rs. 930 a packet, 880 a packet and 830 a packet. Typically , about half the seed is sold by the first week of June if rains come on time. However, this year, due to a delayed monsoon, less than 10 per cent cotton seeds have been sold so far.

– India Times

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