Sunday , April 11 2021

Pepsi Co. India sues farmers for growing potatoes used by Lezhi Chips



The lawsuits were filed earlier this month by the Indian subsidiary of the company, and will be heard by a county court in Gujarat's West Indies on Friday. PepsiCo (PEP) says farmers who are being sued are not among the thousands who are authorized to grow the breed of protected potatoes.
But trade unions and farmers' activists are fighting a food and drink manufacturer, marking the latest battle in India between local businesses and big global players. Small Indian sellers are protesting against companies like Walmart (WMT) and Amazon (AMZN) – arguing that US traders unfairly ruined their business – or even managed to make the government impose some restrictions.

PepsiCo, which owns brands like Pepsi, Lays, Gatorade and Quaker Oats, is reportedly claiming 10 million rupees ($ 143,000) in damages from every farmer.

"PepsiCo is India's largest potato buyer in processing processes and among the first companies working with thousands of local farmers to produce a specific, protected variety of potatoes for that," a company spokeswoman from India told CNN Business on Thursday. "In this case, we took a court registry against people who illegally dealt with our registered variety."

The spokesman did not comment on the damage the company is seeking.

Farmers and activists in India have called on the Indian government to step down and take action against Pepsico. In a letter to the government released earlier this week and shared with CNN Business, they said that farmers' rights to grow and sell registered crops are protected by India's agricultural laws.

"We believe that intimidation and legal harassment of farmers happens because farmers are not fully aware [their] rights, "the letter said. The letter also claimed that Pepsi Co. sent private detectives to indicted farmers who are potential buyers, secretly capturing video from them and taking samples of potatoes.

Pepsi Co did not comment on these allegations.

The company's actions are "against the sovereignty of food" and "sovereignty of the nation," said Kapil Shah of Jatan, one of the advocacy groups that helps defend farmers.

"We will fight, no matter how big the company is," Shah said. "Pepsi made a big mistake."

Correction: A previous version of this story misrepresented the nature of the alleged violation.

Swati Gupta contributed to this report.


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