PepsiCo announced that it will withdraw its patent infringement lawsuit against a number of Gujarat potato farmers. The India unit of the snacks and beverages major had sued nine farmers of Sabarkantha and Aravalli districts of North Gujarat in two separate courts for "illegally" cultivating its registered FC5 potato variety, exclusively grown for its Lay's chips.
"After discussions with the government, the company has agreed to withdraw the cases against the farmers. We are relying on the said discussions to find a long term and an amicable resolution of all issues around seed protection," a PepsiCo India spokesman said.
It was reported yesterday that the Gujarat government is working on an out-of-court settlement in the matter. An influential Hindu nationalist group with close ties to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had also accused PepsiCo coercing four Indian farmers who have been sued by it.
Last week, Pepsico had hoped for an amicable resolution to the matter, offering the farmers it had sued a chance to grow the FC5 variety of potatoes for the company. Executives at the PepsiCo headquarters and its Asia-Pacific office had also expressed their concern over the Indian unit's lawsuits against Gujarat farmers.
"To safeguard the larger interest of farmers, PepsiCo India was compelled to take judicial recourse to protect its registered variety. PepsiCo from the very start had also offered an amicable settlement to farmers," the PepsiCo spokesperson said.
The company has stated that the FC5 variety of potato has less moisture in it, and is thus preferable for making snacks. PepsiCo has maintained that it registered the trait in 2016.
Pepsico had filed a case against four farmers in an Ahmedabad court and demanded more from Rs 1 crore each from the farmers. It had also sued five more farmers in a different court. The decision to withdraw the lawsuit will be applicable to all the farmers.
PepsiCo has been present in India for the past 30 years. It supplies the FC5 variety of potato to farmers under a contract and buys the yield at a fixed rate
"The company remains deeply committed to the thousands of farmers we work with across the country and towards ensuring adoption of best farming practices," the spokesperson said.