PepsiCo withdraws lawsuits against Indian Potato Farmers after Govt. intervention

Talib Khan / Rahul Kumar Jha

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New Delhi, (3/5/2019): PepsiCo has agreed to withdraw lawsuits against Indian potato farmers it alleged infringed a patent by cultivating a variety grown exclusively for its Lays potato chips.

The US snack food and drinks maker, which in addition to filing the lawsuit against the four farmers in April had sued five other potato growers, had said it wanted to settle the issue amicably.

“After discussions with the government, the company has agreed to withdraw the cases against the farmers,” a PepsiCo India spokesman said on Thursday, adding that this applied to all nine.

The decision comes at a particularly sensitive time in India, which is about halfway through a 39-day general election in which its rural population still has a dominant voice.

PepsiCo, which did not disclose details of its consultations, had previously said the farmers must either sell their potatoes to the New York-based company or stop cultivating the FC5 variety. In return, PepsiCo would withdraw the lawsuit.

PepsiCo, which set up its first potato chips plant in India in 1989, supplies the FC5 variety to a group of farmers who in turn sell their produce to it at a fixed price.

PepsiCo maintains that it developed the FC5 variety of potato, which has a reduced moisture content to make snacks such as potato chips, and registered the trait in 2016.

The April lawsuit was filed in Ahmedabad, the business hub of the western state of Gujarat, requesting that the court restrain the four farmers from growing the FC5 variety.

PepsiCo had also sought more than 10 million rupees ($143,000) each from the farmers.

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