New Delhi: The Centre has reduced the maximum sale price of genetically modified (GM) Bt cotton seeds by Rs 10 to Rs 730 per packet for the next fiscal to benefit farmers and also cut royalty to US-based technology provider Monsanto by almost half to Rs 20 per packet.
German pharma and agrochemical major Bayer, which has now acquired Monsanto globally, expressed disappointment on reduction in royalty value.
This is the third year in a row when the Union agriculture ministry has reduced the maximum sale price of cotton seeds and royalty.
According to a notification, the maximum sale price of a Bt cotton seeds packet (of 450 gm) has been fixed at Rs 730 for bollgard (BG)-II version, including Rs 20 for the trait value, for the 2019-20 fiscal. The rate is Rs 740 per packet, including Rs 39 for the trait value, in the current fiscal year.
The move will benefit eight million cotton growers and also increase the margin of domestic seed companies as royalty fee to Mahyco Monsanto Biotech Ltd (MMBL), a Monsanto group firm, has been reduced sharply.
MMBL has sub-licensed Bt technology to various seed companies in India.
"We are extremely disappointed with today's order that further cuts trait fees for cotton seeds across India. Trait fees were less than 0.5 per cent of the farmers' cost of cultivation and today's decision reduces them further," Bayer spokesperson said in a statement.
"A predictable, fair and consistent business environment is extremely essential to attract future investments, innovation and growth in Indian agriculture," the spokesperson added.
For the BG-I version, the maximum sale price has been kept unchanged at Rs 635 per packet with no trait value, the notification added.
The government started controlling prices of cotton seeds, including the GM versions, by fixing a uniform maximum sale price from March 2016.
Bt cotton is the only GM crop allowed for commercial cultivation in the country. Over the last decade, Bt cotton technology has been adopted on over 95 per cent of the country's cotton-growing area, making India the second-largest producer and exporter of the cash crop.
In June 2018, Bayer completed the USD 63-billion mega deal to acquire Monsanto to create the world's biggest agro-chemical and seed company.