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PepsiCo proposes settlement to Gujarat potato farmers sued by it

Press Trust of India  |  Ahmedabad 

Food and beverages giant PepsiCo Friday offered to settle lawsuits against four farmers whom it had dragged to court for "illegally" growing a variety of potatoes "registered" by the company.

Nine farmers from Sabarkantha and Aravalli districts have been sued by the firm for allegedly growing a variety of potatoes for which it has claimed Plant Variety Protection (PVP) rights.

During a hearing in the commercial court here Friday, the firm offered to settle the dispute if the farmers gave an undertaking to purchase this specific variety of seeds from the company and thereafter sell the potato produce to it.

Senior counsel Anand Yagnik, who appeared for the four farmers of Sabarkantha district, told the court he would discuss the settlement proposal with the farmers and inform the court about the outcome in the next hearing.

Commercial Court Judge M C Tyagi Friday extended its previous order restricting the farmers from using the patented seeds till the next hearing, which was kept for June 12.

The multinational giant has sought damages of

Rs 1 crore from each of the four farmers of Sabarkantha in its suit at the commercial court, and Rs 20 lakh from each of the farmers sued at a district court in Modasa town of Arvalli district.

In a statement, PepsiCo said it was "compelled" to take the legal path to safeguard the interests of farmers associated with the firm.

"PepsiCo India has proposed to amicably settle with people who were unlawfully using seeds of its registered variety. PepsiCo has also proposed that they may become part of its collaborative potato farming program.

"This program gives them access to higher yields, enhanced quality, training in best-in-class practices and better prices," the statement read.

"In case, they do not wish to join this program, they can simply sign an agreement and grow other available varieties of potatoes. It is significant to note that the company's collaborative potato farming program is best in class and is built on strong backward and forward linkages that improve livelihoods by using protected seeds," it said.

"The company was compelled to take the judicial recourse as a last resort to safeguard the larger interest of thousands of farmers who are engaged with its collaborative potato farming program. PepsiCo India remains deeply committed to resolving the matter and ensuring adoption of best farming practices," the statement said.

Two days ago, over 190 activists came out in support of these farmers and requested the Union government to ask the multinational giant to withdraw its "false" cases against the Gujarat farmers.

In a letter to the Ministry of Agriculture, 194 signatories sought financial aid and protection of rights of farmers who have been sued for growing and selling the potato variety called FC-5 potato, for which PepsiCo India Holdings claimed to have obtained "exclusive rights in the country in 2016".

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, April 26 2019. 22:20 IST