30 August 1996

£1m from farm-saved seed royalties for BSPB

By Tony McDougal

COLLECTION of farm-saved seed royalties this autumn is set to net the British Society of Plant Breeders more than £1m.

And with additional cereal varieties due to be added to the royalty list next year, BSPB chief executive Roger Turner is confident royalties will rise to more than £2m.

At present, many popular varieties of winter wheat, including Riband and Hereward, do not incur royalty charges. But this is expected to change next year, and there is also a derogation for farmers saving seed of a variety sown before Sep 1, 1994.

The agreement in March for autumn 1996 and spring 1997 sowings between the NFU and BSPB followed seven years of bitter disputes and set royalty charges for winter wheat of £4.25/ha (£22.37/t), which is roughly half the C2 rate.

Paul Hammerton, farm business adviser with Strutt and Parker, said the charges were reasonable, though the NFU will have to fight hard to keep royalties at the same level for the 1997 year when they meet plant breeders for talks in February.

Mr Turner said the National Association of Agricultural Contractors would collect more than 70% of the royalties through its 300 mobile seed processors. Individual contracts were being drawn up with other farmers.

The BSPB have sent out thousands of letters to cereal farmers concerning collection of royalties and Mr Turner said he was pleased with the prompt replies. "Last year we had several veryrude responses, but mostpeople now seem satisfied."

Don Murphy, NAAC chief executive, said contractors had reported little animosity, but admitted the situation in Scotland was more difficult because agreement had only been reached a month ago.

Mr Murphy said the NAAC was working to a number of deadlines set up by BPBS and admitted there could be some slippage after a slow start.

John Malcolm, NFU chief economist, said there would be close monitoring of farm-saved seed following a 5% rise in use by farmers between 1990 and 1995.

"If the amount of farm-saved seed continues to grow, the rate of payment to plant breeders will rise. One has to remember that for every tonne of farm-saved seed, the breeder is losing 100% of royalties on certified seed."

Mobile seed cleaner Tim Rogers at work on a Daventry Farm.