Food and beverages company PepsiCo on Friday offered to settle lawsuits against four potato farmers in Gujarat who the company had accused of illegally growing a variety of potatoes registered under its name, PTI reported.
Pepsi had sued the farmers for cultivating the FC5 potato variety, which is grown exclusively for its Lay’s potato chips. The company had sought more than Rs 1 crore each for alleged patent infringement, according to Reuters. The company claimed Plant Variety Protection rights over the potato variety.
During a hearing on Friday at a commercial court in Ahmedabad, the company offered to settle the dispute if the farmers gave an undertaking to purchase the specific variety of seeds from the company and sell the potato produced to it.
Senior counsel Anand Yagnik, who appeared for the four farmers of Sabarkantha district, told the court that he will discuss the proposal with the farmers and inform the court about the outcome during the next hearing on June 12.
Judge MC Tyagi also extended a previous order restricting the farmers from using the patented seeds till the next hearing.
“PepsiCo has also proposed that they may become a part of its collaborative potato-farming programme,” the company said in a statement, according to The Hindu BusinessLine. “This programme gives them access to higher yields, enhanced quality, training in best-in-class practices and better prices. In case they do not wish to join this programme, they can simply sign an agreement and grow other available varieties of potatoes...”
PepsiCo said it was compelled to take judicial recourse “as a last resort” to safeguard the interests of thousands of farmers who are engaged in its collaborative potato-farming programme. “PepsiCo India remains deeply committed to resolving the matter and ensuring adoption of best farming practices,” the company said.
Farmers claimed that the cost of cultivating the “processing” variety of potato or the variety used to make chips is almost double, with costly inputs like fertilisers.
Over 190 farmers, scientists, activists and unions from across the country have signed a protest letter in support of the four farmers, News18 reported. Bharatiya Kisan Sangh Vice President Ambubhai Patel said they will not allow intimidation.