Recently we have witnessed the high drama and tussle between the state governments of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat & Maharashtra and the MNCs & Indian seed majors on the issue of increasing the prices of Bt cotton seeds.
For the 2010 sowing season, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat have fixed an unchanged maximum retail price (MRP) of Rs 650 for every packet of Bt cotton seeds incorporating Monsanto's ‘Bollgard-I' (BG-I) trait and Rs 750 a packet in the case of second-generation ‘Bollgard-II' (BG-II) technology. Whereas
Even Union Agriculture Ministry has given up the arms and is not in favour of any sort of curbs of the seed prices. Their grouse of the Seed Bill, which aims to regulate the quality of seeds, does not monitor their prices, crucial for farmers. But the ministry assures to redraft the bill following complaints by MPs, states and farmer groups giving a thought to the price issue and compensation clause. The seed sector is governed by State's rules and it has to be aptly respected by the ministry and the stance should not to be diluted without the consent of all the states and stakeholders. At present, most states do not control the prices of seeds sold by hybrid seed companies. The companies fix their own prices and the growers are often been exploited on the falsified promises by the companies.
The MNCs have indirectly issued even a warning that seed price controls may impact the availability of quality seeds on time. These words are derogatory and are too mean in a democracy like
But the apprehensions, expressed by corporates about hampering of investment in R&D and eventually seed shortage can be well taken care of and given consideration in the Seed Bill amendment as price limitation would hamper future advancements in germplasm enhancing technologies resulting in non-availability of good quality seeds to the farmers in the future. Hybrid seeds production is a very labour-intensive affair and the labour costs have almost doubled in the last 2-3 years and added with the inflationary pressure, the prices should be revised by at least 30- 35%. Otherwise, it is difficult to expect seed growers to keep supplying adequate material, as expressed by Industry persons. Keeping these views in mind, the affordability issue should also be given a consideration by the Ministry or, Court. The upward price revision has a bearing on various stakeholders including seed growers, seed companies, farmers and lastly in price control. Therefore, the Government could consider a mutually agreeable formula that is linked to market driven prices.
Experts agreed that fixing prices wasn’t a viable option for keeping seed prices affordable to farmers, but regulation was necessary to prevent cartelization. Seed prices aren’t completely determined by market forces. There are political factors at play too. But there has to be a balancing act somewhere and government must ensure that competition prevails, without resorting to blanket price fixing. As seed is the primary vital input for a successful agricultural production, its timely and qualitative supply at an affordable price can only usher in production at sufficient levels.