PepsiCo India on Thursday, May 2, withdrew a lawsuit it had filed against several farmers in the country.
The India arm of the soft-drink giant sued the farmers last month because they were growing a variety of potatoes that it had registered for sole use in the production of Lays potato chips.
Pepsico India had earlier said in a statement that it planned to “amicably settle” the legal matter with the farmers.
At least nine farmers from Gujarat were sued for hundreds of thousands of dollars each because of what PepsiCo India saw was a transgression on the tillers’ part.
The change in attitude of the Indian arm of PepsiCo was apparently prompted by the outpourings of outrage from several quarters. These included the political class and by the masses on social media.
PepsiCo India statement
Following a query from Times of Food, PepsiCo India released a statement to clear the air over the matter.
She said in a statement from the company: “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 programme.”
However, things have changed now, with the company having “proposed to amicably settle with people who were unlawfully using seeds of its registered variety,” according to the statement.
It added: “PepsiCo has also proposed that they may become part of its collaborative potato farming programme.”
It also said: “This programme gives them access to higher yields, enhanced quality, training in best-in-class practices and better prices. In case, they [the farmers] do not wish to join this programme, they can simply sign an agreement and grow other available varieties of potatoes.”
What led to the kerfuffle?
It all started late last month when it emerged that PepsiCo India was suing several farmers in the Western Indian state of Gujarat because they were growing a variety of potato that had been registered to be used specifically to produce Lays potato chips.
PepsiCo demanded damages to the tune of Rs 1.5 crore – Rs 15 million or about $220,000 – from each of these farmers.
What followed was an outpouring of outrage on social media from various quarters, including the political class.
Delhi BJP spokesperson Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga even issued an ultimatum on Twitter on April 26, warning PepsiCo India of widespread boycott of its products if it did not withdraw the lawsuits.
See the tweet here: