After cancelling its licence to sell 12 varieties of Bt cotton seeds last year, the State government has allowed Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (Mahyco) to sell the seeds in the coming kharif season, subject to certain conditions.
Confirming this, State agriculture commissioner Umakant Dangat told The Hindu on Monday that Mahyco had given an affidavit to him stating that the company would supply 10 lakh packets of Bt cotton seeds of the popular MRC 7351 variety. The company would submit a detailed production programme and ensure proper distribution of the seeds. It would also ensure that the seeds were sold at Rs. 930 per packet for this variety. One of the complaints last year was the inflated prices at which seed packets were sold. The decision was taken keeping in mind the high demand for this variety, Mr. Dangat added.
Mahyco had appealed to the High Court against the decision of the office of the Controller and Director, Commissionerate of Agriculture (Inputs and Quality Control) last August to cancel the licence to sell 12 varieties of Bt cotton seeds under the Maharashtra Cotton Seed Rules, 2010, for violating the conditions of the licence. Under the Rules, the Controller can ask for information on seed supply. The licence was cancelled after the government found that the company had submitted false information to district officials of the agricultural department on seed supply for the kharif season, among other reasons.
Mr. Dangat said as the agriculture commissioner, he was the appellate authority under the Cotton Seeds Act and the company could not approach the High Court till this alternative remedy was exhausted. Accordingly, Mahyco withdrew its petition and an interim stay was granted on the cancellation of licence on April 30. Mr. Dangat said a final order would be passed shortly after hearing both parties.
Mahyco has also agreed to provide five lakh packets of other varieties of Bt cotton for this kharif season. The company did not comment on the matter.
The government had issued Mahyco a show cause notice on May 31, 2012, asking for an explanation on the alleged black marketing and hoarding of seeds and not providing correct information on seed supply for the kharif season. The company had failed to submit detailed information at the district level and Bt cotton MRC 7351 packets could not be distributed properly. This led to unrest among the farmers and rasta roko in Yeola, Nashik and at Beed, where police lathi charged farmers.
Mahyco was charged with giving false information and not submitting a proper production plan. Consequently, the Bt cotton seeds were sold at a higher price in the black market. A first information report was lodged against the company at the Beed police station on June 1 for cheating and criminal breach of trust. In the 2012 kharif season, the company said it would provide 10.56 lakh seed packets, but provided only 6.50 lakh packets.