Bayer subsidiary eyes India launch  pad for hybrid seeds

Bayer subsidiary eyes India launch pad for hybrid seeds

Mumbai: German biotechnology and agrochemical company Bayer CropScience AG, a subsidiary of drug maker Bayer AG, intends to work directly with Indian farmers to research, innovate and introduce new varieties of hybrid seeds in the local market.

The firm’s Indian arm, Bayer CropScience Ltd, will facilitate retailers to buy produce from more than 1,000 farmers enrolled with its project called food-chain partnership.

It has inked pacts with firms such as RPG Group’s Spencer’s Retail Ltd, ITC Ltd and Aditya Birla Retail Ltd to procure the crop through their collection centres.

These farmers, who cultivate some 20ha each, will also receive training in new crop technologies, and hybrid seeds and crop protection products. Bayer CropScience will then vouch for the quality of the crop.

In return, the company will use these farms for on-field research and development, said Birgitt Walz-Tylla, global head of Bayer CropScience’s food chain management.

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Bayer CropScience’s newly acquired firm Nunhems—which produces vegetable seeds— will also use the programme as a launch pad for its hybrid vegetable seeds in the Indian market.

“We have done the pilot testing of this model with a few retailers and now weare implementing the same in 50 projects across India with select food-chain partners," said Jens Hartmann, India head of Bayer CropScience South Asia.

Mint had reported in September that India would corner a significant portion of the €3.4 billion (about Rs22,576 crore) that Bayer CropScience proposes to spend on research and development globally in the next four years.

Some of Bayer’s earlier projects in India using genetically modified crops and hybrid seeds have run into controversies, but the firm hopes its new project involving farmers will help clear what it says are misconceptions about advanced crop technologies.

The initiative is part of the company’s new biosciences business that was branched out to India in 2007 by setting up a research and development facility at Hyderabad.

Bayer CropScience has already launched its food-chain partnership programme in countries that include Brazil, Mexico and Italy for different crops, Walz-Tylla said.

Bayer CropScience’s bio-sciences business, chiefly related to seeds and their traits, touched €304 million in the first half of 2008 globally.

This segment grew at 15%, driven by contributions from its genetically modified Bt cotton business in North America, Mexico and India, as well as strong demand for hybrid rice varieties in Asia, the company said.