Farm biotech major Monsanto has expanded its research and development (R&D) facility for vegetable seeds near Bengaluru even as it gears up to roll out new disease-resistant and high-yielding hybrid varieties of tomato and peppers in the domestic market.

Upbeat on domestic turf Speaking to reporters after inaugurating the expanded R&D facility, Kenneth Avery, Vice-President, Global Vegetable Business, Monsanto, said the Indian market offers major potential for the company to grow its business on the rising consumption of vegetables led by growth in population and increasing affordability.

Avery said the vegetable consumption in India, the second largest consumer after the United States, has been growing at 2-3 per cent per annum, while it was largely stable in the US and Western Europe.

Replying to a query, Avery said that the company has no plans to introduce the genetically modified vegetables in India as the costs of registrations were huge compared to the returns generated by such products.

No GM focus He also said that the R&D centre here has no plans to work on the GM vegetable varieties.

Monsanto, which began its R&D centre at Kallinayakanahalli in Chikkaballapur district, near Bengaluru, with an investment of ₹25 crore in 2005, has been investing about ₹20-25 crore on an annual basis over the past few years. “We may increase our investments as we bring in more technology and products into the Indian market,” Avery added.

Late entrant While the company tops the ranks in Asia, in India it is yet to catch up as it was a late entrant in the vegetables seeds business. Monsanto, which acquired Seminis in 2005 to foray into vegetable seeds, continues to sell its product under the same brand.

Monsanto currently is the third largest player in the Indian vegetable seed market after Syngenta and Nunhems, the vegetable seed business of Bayer Crop Science.

“We have been growing at around 15 per cent in the Indian market,” said Prashant Hegde, Asia Vegetable Business Lead, Monsanto. The company claimed to have a share of 10 per cent in the Indian vegetable seeds market, estimated at around ₹2,000 crore and growing annually by a tenth.

Monsanto currently has R&D staff strength of about 50 working on vegetables. "We will have room to accommodate another 30 R&D staff," said VK Kishore, vegetable R&D lead, for Asia.

Kishore said the company expects to soon launch a tomato variety that has an extended shelf life of 14-16 days as against the current variety in the market that can remain fresh for 7-8 days.

The company also proposes to launch a white variety of cauliflower next year.