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Tribune Impact
VAT on Bt cotton seed waived
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 16
The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, has announced not only to waive 4 per cent VAT on Bt cotton seed, but also assured MLAs that he will urge the Union Government to make the companies selling Bt cotton in the country to slash the seed price. “I will request the Union Government to negotiate with the companies concerned to reduce the Bt seed price”, said Capt Amarinder Singh.

Responding to a call-attention notice given by the SAD MLA, Mr Manpreet Singh Badal, in the Assembly today, the Chief Minister said he agreed with the concerns expressed by the MLA with regard to Bt cotton seed and its price. Mr Manpreet Singh had stated that farmers were buying spurious Bt cotton seed because the price of the genuine seed was very high. He had sought a ban on bringing spurious Bt cotton seed into the state.

The issue of 4 per cent VAT on Bt cotton seed was highlighted by The Tribune in its columns. Taxation Department officers had been treating Bt cotton seed as an oilseed and had been charging 4 per cent VAT on it, adding to the woes of farmers who had to pay a high price of Rs 1,600 to buy a packet containing 450 gm of the seed.

Capt Amarinder Singh said that recently the issue of spurious seed was raised at a meeting called by the Secretary of the Union Agriculture Ministry.

He was informed by Punjab officers that Gujarat had become a hub of supplying spurious Bt cotton seed to some Punjab and Haryana-based agents.

Capt Amarinder Singh said the Agriculture Department had taken certain steps to stop the sale of spurious Bt cotton seed in the state. Flying squads had been constituted to raid places to check the sale of spurious seed and the district agriculture officers had been asked to maintain liaison with the district administration and the police authorities. Farmers had also been advised to purchase the seed against proper receipts and bills.

The Union Government had agreed to set up a laboratory to test the genuiness of Bt seed. The state Agriculture Department would submit the project report of the laboratory to the Union Government soon.

He said he had no objection to the sowing of certain hybrid varieties of cotton sown in Gujarat which had become popular with Punjab farmers. “But approval should be first taken from Punjab Agricultural University before sowing such varieties”, he added. He said that to ensure bio-safety in the light of introduction of Bt crops in the state, a high-level committee under the chairmanship of the Chief Secretary had been set up. Committees at the district level had also been set up.

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