PepsiCo sues Indian farmers for growing potatoes used in its crisps

File image.

Farmers in the state of Gujarat, India, are seeking government intervention after Pepsi Co, whose products include Pepsi, Lays, Doritos, Tropicana, 7up, sued for farmers for allegedly infringing its rights by growing a potato variety registered by the company for use in its Lays crisps.

Four farmers are reportedly being sued by the company for approximately €134,000 in damages each.

According to The Hindu, a letter sent to the Protection of Plant Varieties & Farmers' Rights Authority in India (PPV & FRA) by farming activists and groups said: "These farmers are small, holding around 3-4 acres on an average, and had grown a potato crop from farm-saved seed after they accessed the potato seed locally in 2018.

It also alleges that PepsiCo hired a private detective agency to pose as potential buyers and take secret video footage without disclosing their real intent.

The case resumes today.

A Pepsi spokesperson said:

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 collaborate potato farming program.

"This 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 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.

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

PepsiCo set up its first crisp plant in Channo, Punjav in 1989, followed by two more at Ranjangaon, Pune and Howrah, West Bengal. At the moment, PepsiCo is the largest processed grade potato buyer in India.

The company is planning to double its collaborative farming network in the next five years, including expansion to new geographies.

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