Policy issues, including the controversial intellectual property rights issues recently faced by potato farmers in Gujarat, are expected to come up for discussion during the four-day “Global Potato Conclave” scheduled here from January 28 to 31. The event, organised by institutes under the Union Ministry of Agriculture, is sponsored by private firms engaged in potato processing in India and has Netherlands as country partner.
“On January 30, we have a panel discussion on policy issues. This session will be chaired by (Dr Kumble Vinod Prabhu) the head of Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV&FR) Authority and this issue (of patented seeds) will come up for sure… During the entire day we will be discussing the problem areas including those for farmers and corporates and will identify areas where policy reforms are needed,” said SK Chakrabarti, Director of Shimla-based Central Potato Research Institute (CPRI), which is hosting the event at Mahatma Mandir at Gandhinagar along with the Indian Potato Association (IPA) and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).
“The rules and laws surrounding contract farming will also come up for discussion,” he added. According to Chakrabarti, the event, which will be addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi through a video-conference, will also see 500 farmers on the inaugural day.
“The companies sponsoring the event will be bringing the farmers to the event,” the official said adding that McCain Foods, PepsiCo, Hyfun Foods, Mahindra HZPC Pvt Ltd, ISCON Balaji Foods, among others.
The event is being organised in Gujarat six months after PepsiCo sued 11 farmers for illegally growing and selling a potato variety registered in the company’s name. The farmers have argued in their defence that they have the freedom to sow, exchange, share seeds of even a protected variety under the PPV&FR Act. The cases against the farmers were withdrawn by the company after the state government intervened. The last such event was held in 2008 in New Delhi.
The conclave will also feature a “Kisan Ghosti” or an interactive session with farmers and experts where the organisers expect 8,000-10,000 farmers to turn up for the interaction that will be held at Chandarala village in Ahmedabad district on January 31. At the same venue, a field demonstration of potato related technologies will also be organised where advancements in potato mechanisation, potato varieties (both Indian and exotic), drone and sensor based technologies, crop health and processing related technologies will be showcased. “The potato varieties of some of the private companies will also be shown during this demonstration,” the official said.
Talking about the reasons for selecting Gujarat as the venue, Chakrabarti said, “Since the last conference held in 2008, Gujarat has seen a revolution in potato farming. While the production of potato has doubled, the area under potato crop has risen by 170 per cent. Today, Gujarat stands fourth in the country in terms of potato production. Uttar Pradesh (accounts for 30% of total potato production), West Bengal (23%) and Bihar (10%) are the leaders.” He said Gujarat also has a good network for marketing, processing and exports of potato.
In 2018-19, the country saw 53 million metric tonne of potato being produced. About 60 odd varieties of potatoes are grown in the country.
About 100 delegates from 14 foreign countries are expected to participate in the event. Netherlands, which will have a special pavilion at the event, will also host a seminar on potatoes.
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