GENET archive


2-Plants: Monsanto Bt-cotton seeds a sell-out with Indian farmers

genet-news mailing list

                                  PART I
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Monsanto cotton seeds a sell-out with farmers
SOURCE: The Hindu Business Line, India, by Harish Damodaran
DATE:   July 17, 2002

------------------ archive: ------------------

Monsanto cotton seeds a sell-out with farmers

AURANGABAD, July 16 - JUDGING by the initial response from farmers and seed 
dealers, the 'Bollgard' (Bt) cotton of Monsanto and the Maharashtra Hybrid 
Seeds Co Ltd (Mahyco) has been a total sell-out in its very first season of 
commercial planting.

In the current kharif season, Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech India Ltd (MMB), the 
50:50 marketing joint venture between the two companies, has sold 1.05 lakh 
[lakh means 100,000] packets of Mahyco's cotton hybrid seeds, genetically 
engineered to confer 'in-built' resistance to the dreaded American bollworm 

"Given the limited quantity of seeds available, 80 per cent of our sales 
were made to farmers located in cluster villages around our trial 
locations. Being already familiar with the product, they were the most keen 
to plant them. Only the remaining 20 per cent was supplied to new farmers", 
said Dr M.K. Sharma, Managing Director of MMB.

Of the 1.05 lakh packets sold - likely to touch 6-7 lakh packets next year -
 around 39,200 were allocated to Maharashtra, 21,000 to Karnataka, 15,000 
to Gujarat, 14,000 to Tamil Nadu, 11,000 to Andhra Pradesh and 4,500 to 
Madhya Pradesh. "We are looking at this year more as an opportunity to send 
the right communication to the farmer, which will create conditions for its 
eventual large-scale adoption," Mr Raju Barwale, Managing Director, Mahyco, 

The Bt hybrids were sold to farmers at Rs [INR] 1,600 per packet, each 
containing 450 gm of seeds to cover one acre. This is against a maximum 
retail price of Rs 380 for a similar packet of Mahyco's non-Bt cotton 
hybrid versions.

According to Mr Gopal Bharuka, MMB's distributor for Aurangabad district, 
the high price was not a deterrent to Bollgard's sales. "This year, I 
distributed 453 packets. I am confident of selling 50,000 next season and 
capturing a fifth of the district's market of 2.5 lakh packets for all 
hybrid cotton seeds," he claimed.

Mr R.M. Arora, a leading seed dealer here, too, felt that the price of Rs 
1,600 was reasonable. "The packet costing Rs 1,600 contains not only a 450-
gm composite can of Bt seeds, but also a separate 120 gm pouch of the non-
Bt version of the same hybrid seeds, costing around Rs 100. Further, the 
seeds are treated with Gaucho (Imidacloropid), which does away with the 
need to spray against sucking pests for up to 45 days, saving another Rs 
100. So, the effective price is Rs 1,400, i.e, Rs 1,000 more than that for 
ordinary cotton hybrids," he stated.

But does this still work out to be economical? Most farmers in the 
Aurangabad-Jalna belt with whom Business Line interacted said that they had 
invested the extra Rs 1,000 per acre in the hope of saving on pesticide 
applications for controlling bollworm infestation. A single round of 
spraying pesticides - be it organophosphates like endosulphan and 
monocrotophos or synthetic pyrethroids such as cypermethrin and fennalrate -
 costs Rs 250-300 per acre. And farmers spray 10 to 15 times, depending on 
the incidence of the bollworm population.

"Last year, I spent Rs 10,000 in making 15 sprays in my 2.5-acre cotton 
field and I still got just five quintals per acre", Ramdas Ananda Phalke, a 
resident of village Varkhedi, said.

Vittal Asaram Shelke, an 8-acre farmer from village Sawangi, said that 
during the last 4-5 years, his seed cotton yields ranged between three and 
15 quintals per acre.

"It depends mainly on what the bondali (bollworm) does. But there is no 
year where I spend less than Rs 3,000 per acre in controlling the pest. If 
the Bollgard hybrids will help reduce this cost by even half and stabilise 
my yields at 10-12 quintals, I would be most happy", he added.

According to Mr Barwale, the estimated savings from Bollgard, due to lesser 
number of pesticide sprays as well as reduced yield losses, comes to a 
minimum Rs 3,000 per acre.

"Farmers certainly won't mind sharing a third of this gain with us", he 

While the Bollgard cotton's resistance against the bollworm pest may be 
well established, farmers have, however, been advised that for every acre 
of Bt seeds planted, they simultaneously grow five surrounding rows of non-
Bt cotton as `refuge'.

"We have supplied the 120 gm of non-Bollgard seeds free, so that the pest's 
activity is diverted to this additional 0.27-acre area. This will minimise 
the potential for the development of Bt-resistant insect races in the long 
run," Dr Sharma explained.

Farmers have also been asked to `scout' their fields twice a week and spray 
against bollworms only in case the bollworm larval count exceeds the 
economic threshold limit (ETL) of 20 per 20 randomly selected plants. 
"Farmers will not have to repeatedly spray against bollworms, though they 
would still have to use pesticides against sucking pests (jassids, 
whitefly, aphids, thrips, mites, etc). The Bollgard's action is specific to 
only lepidopteran insects, particularly bollworm," Mr Barwale pointed out.

[100 INR = 1,27 EUR]

                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Will Bt seeds yield better prices?
SOURCE: The Hindu Business Line, India, by Harish Damodaran
DATE:   July 17, 2002

------------------ archive: ------------------

Will Bt seeds yield better prices?

AURANGABAD, July 16 - WHETHER Bollgard will succeed or not is not what is 
occupying the minds of most cotton growers here. For them, the real 
question is: will we able to get a remunerative price for our kapas (seed 
cotton) this year?

The basis for this concern is the acute dearth of funds with the 
Maharashtra State Cooperative Cotton Marketing Federation, which buys 
cotton from farmers under the State Government's monopoly procurement 

"Last year, the Government declared a price of Rs [INR] 2,050 per quintal. 
But, so far, I have received only Rs 1,300 per quintal. If the Federation 
owes me Rs 750 per quintal from last year's crop, how will it be in a 
position to buy this year's crop (harvested from November)?" quipped Rao 
Saheb Sarjerao Jadhav, a seven-acre grower in village Bilda.

Sheikh Fakir Ibrahim, another farmer in the neighbouring Varkhedi village, 
felt that if the Federation does not undertake purchases, prices might even 
crash to Rs 1,000 per quintal. "The traders are much better organised than 
us and we will be left with no option but to sell to them", he complained.

A cotton farmer typically confronts three types of risks: weather, 
marketing and pest attacks. "Bollgard can manage only the third risk, not 
the first two", admitted Mr Raju Barwale, Managing Director of Mahyco. He, 
however, expected open market price realisations to improve in the current 
season. "First of all, international prices have firmed up (largely due to 
China's poor crop) and we are unlikely to see large-scale imports this 
year. Secondly, domestic cotton acreages are likely to be 10-15 per cent 
lower than last year, especially in the North", he added.

A farmer harvesting, say eight quintals per acre of kapas, usually incurs 
input costs of around Rs 10,000 per acre, with the main components being 
pesticides (Rs 3,000, assuming 10 sprays), fertilisers (Rs 1,500-2,000), 
harvesting (Rs 800-1,200, at the rate of Rs 1-1.50 for each kg picked), 
apart from irrigation and other labour charges. The component prone to 
maximum fluctuation is pesticides, where the costs can go up to even Rs 
5,000 per acre. "Farmers would benefit if at least this component can be 
controlled", Mr Barwale observed.

[100 INR = 1,27 EUR]

|                   GENET                     |
| European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering |
|                                             |
|             Hartmut MEYER (Mr)              |
|               Kleine Wiese 6                |
|           D - 38116 Braunschweig            |
|                 Germany                     |
|                                             |
| phone:  +49-531-5168746                     |
| fax:    +49-531-5168747                     |                      
| mobile: +49-162-1054755                     |
| email:                   |