With farmers' strike on mind, Centre directs seed firms to lower MRP by 10%

Farmers pelting stones as they clash with the police during their agitation in Phanda near Bhopal
Under pressure due to ongoing farmers' agitation across the country demanding better price for their produce, the Centre on Thursday entered into an understanding with seed companies to sell hybrid seeds at a rate which is 10 per cent below the printed Maximum Retail Price (MRP) from June 19 onwards.

Hybrid seeds are majorly used in vegetables, grains and paddy.

However, the price cut won't include cotton, rates of which are already regulated.

The retail price of hybrid seeds range from Rs 300-500 per kilogram. The decision was welcomed with guarded optimism by some farmer groups.

"This is just tokenism as the main rise in input cost has been of fertilisers and seeds are not a big part of input costs. Moreover, seed companies would increase their MRP gradually to offset the 10 per cent deduction," Anant Jauhari, head of Kisan Adhikar Manch, an apolitical grouping of farmers working in almost 11 districts of Madhya Pradesh told Business Standard.

The Centre has also decided to increase the minimum support price of major pulses by around Rs 350-400 per quintal, while that of paddy by almost Rs 80 per quintal.

In percentage terms, the increase was 7-8 per cent for pulses from the previous MSP, while in the case of paddy the hike was around 6 per cent.

That apart, the Centre has decided to increase the MSP of soybean by Rs 275 per quintal.

All the decisions will be applicable from the 2017-18 kharif sowing season which has already begun in some parts.

On seeds, officials said the decision was taken at a meeting called by Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh here today to reduce voluntarily the seed prices.

"We appealed to the seed industry to bring down the prices of hybrid seeds in the interest of farmers. They have agreed to do so," Singh told PTI after the meeting.

Later, he tweeted, "I appreciate the seed industry for making a collective decision in favour of farmers by reducing hybrid seeds MRP by 10 per cent."

Elaborating on the decision, National Seed Association President M Prabhakar Rao said the minister shared that there is a distress among farmers due to low profitability in agriculture and they appealed to us to bring down seed prices.

"The industry after consultation agreed to make arrangements for the sale of hybrid seeds at prices 10 per cent below MRP as printed on seed packet effective from June 19," he said.

However, the new rates will not be applicable on cotton seeds which are already regulated by the government.

Asked if the price cut on seeds will be for the whole year, Rao said, "At this point of time, we are deciding it for kharif season. We will review for rabi season later." The dealers will be communicated so that the new rates are implemented smoothly from Monday.

Besides the National Seeds Association, representatives from the Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII) were present in the meeting. Global seed firms Monsanto, Bayer and Syngenta are members of FSII.

The size of the hybrid market is about Rs 6,000 crore.

Six farmers were killed in Mandsaur district of Madhya Pradesh last week after a 10-day long farmers' agitation in the state turned violent.

The killings sparked off nationwide outrage and brought the entire isue of low return on farming back to centre-stage. The farmers have decided to expand their agitation in the coming days. 

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