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Top global agricultural firms being probed over price collusion in sale of carrot seeds to India’s farmers

India's price-fixing probe of global seed firms sparked by carrot farmers.

The Competition Commission of India is investigating suspected price collusion by some prominent global agricultural firms such as Germany’s BASF and France’s Vilmorin & Cie following complaints by Tamil Nadu farmers about excessive pricing of imported carrot seeds, according to report by Reuters news agency.

A group representing about 1,500 farmers in the Nilgiri district of Tamil Nadu, a leading carrot-growing state, had approached the market watchdog in 2019 alleging that an "unfair profit margin" was being charged on the carrot seeds.

In some instances, the agricultural firms' seeds were allegedly being sold at four times the imported price, according to CCI documents seen by Reuters. The farmers were also denied sale of such seeds in the northern parts of India where they were available at prices up to 50% cheaper, it was also alleged.

As part of the investigation, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) conducted a multi-city search and seizure operation on Sept. 8 at the local units of Germany's BASF, France's Vilmorin & Cie and other firms.

"There appears to be an understanding/arrangement between the seed importing companies to control the supply of imported variety of carrot seeds and determine their prices," the CCI said in May last year in a confidential order, in which it asked its investigation unit to look into the matter.