19 December 1997

Own seed use may mean royalty rise

A SUSPECTED rise in the use of farm saved seed this year could mean royalties rise on such seed next season, says the British Society of Plant Breeders.

Royalties collected on FSS amounted to £1.75m last season, with estimates suggesting over 97% compliance amongst growers.

Of 170 suspected non-payers investigated by the BSPB just two refused to pay, says vice-chairman Tony Guthrie of Sharpes International Seeds.

Three growers who had not paid did so subsequently and three which were thought to have grown eligible varieties were found to have grown older varieties exempt from the royalty, he says. The two non-payers are now being pursued for payment by the BSPB.

Mobile seed cleaning contractors and other licensed collectors accounted for 90% of the royalty collected, the remaining 10% being paid directly by 3000 farmers, adds BSPB chairman Anthony Keeling of Elsoms Seeds.

Attention now turns to rates for next season. The formula agreed between the BSPB, the NFU and other industry bodies means FSS royalties could go up if the three year rolling average for FSS use rises, explains Mr Guthrie.

Suspected rises in the use of oilseed rape in particular this autumn could see FSS royalties rise correspondingly next autumn, he notes.

However, if FSS use falls royalties fall too, adds BSPB board member Steve Smith of Novartis Seeds. "That happened for spring barley and peas this year. We need to wait to see how much farm saving there was before we can say how royalties will change next year."