13 December 1996

Royalty rise threat for farm-savers?

ROYALTY rates on farm-saved seed could rise next year, if suspicions that more seed than expected was farm-saved this autumn prove right.

First-year collection of farm-saved seed royalty is now nearing completion. And it could show that the total amount exceeds the level agreed in negotiations earlier this year.

For wheat it may be as high as 38%, compared with the expected 31%, says PBICs David Taylor.

Under FSS regulations that would allow breeders to raise the royalty rate, until the level of farm saving returned to the figure set in the regulations.

However, Mr Taylor stresses that any increase would be modest and proportionate to any change in saving. If FSS subsequently dropped, the rate would then fall accordingly.

According to Anthony Keeling, chairman of the British Society of Plant Breeders, collections this year are on schedule to deliver significant income. The full £2m a year may not be achieved until next year, but he is happy with progress.

Registration by seed processors and mobile seed cleaners has been good and payments are expected over the coming weeks. Figures for self-billing farmers are not yet available.

Higher rates

He also allays concerns that Scottish growers using higher seed rates may be disadvantaged. The problem could arise where collection is on a tonnage, not area, basis. However, most of the cereal area in Scotland is down to older, exempt varieties, says Mr Keeling, leaving time for discussion.

In stressing the value of reinvesting in breeding, he points to new work showing its contribution to yield. That has progressed at a rate of 2.5% a year since 1977, compared with 2.1% a year since 1947.