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October 16, 2019
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PepsiCo seeks to settle dispute with Indian farmers it sued for growing potatoes used in Lays chips

PepsiCo is seeking to settle a dispute with four Indian famers it earlier sued for growing a variety of potato it is using for Lays chips.

A CNN report said that PepsiCo offered to stop pursuing four small farmers in India it accuses of illegally growing the variety of potatoes registered for exclusive use in its Lays chips.

The company’s Indian subsidiary filed lawsuits against the farmers earlier this month in Gujarat state. A local court heard the case on Friday during which the lawyer of Pepsi offered to drop the case provided the farmers join thousands of others in the company’s authorized cultivation program.

“That was a discussion that happened in the court today,” a PepsiCo spokesperson told CNN. “We told them, why don’t you join our program and we will provide seeds … Either join us or grow other potatoes. That way, we are willing to let go of the case.”

A lawyer for the farmers has asked for time to consider the offer. The next court hearing is due June 12.

Farmer unions and activists have been fighting back against the food and beverage maker over the case, the latest battle in India between local businesses and big global players. Small retailers have been protesting against companies like Walmart (WMT) and Amazon (AMZN) — claiming the American giants are unfairly destroying their business — and even succeeded in getting the government to put in some restrictions.

PepsiCo, which owns brands like Pepsi, Lays, Gatorade and Quaker Oats, has sought the court to order each of the four farmers to pay 10 million Indian rupees ($143,000) in damages to the company. The farms they operate have only a few acres each.

“The company was compelled to take the judicial recourse as a last resort to safeguard the larger interest of thousands of farmers that are engaged with its collaborative potato farming program,” PepsiCo’s spokesperson said.

The company will not be seeking any compensation if the farmers agree to the settlement offer, the spokesperson added.