Protecting crops from pests and diseases is a major concern for Indian farmers. However, the crop protection industry, which includes manufacturers of pesticides, insecticides and fungicides, has seen strong opposition from those who oppose the use of insecticides and fungicides in Canada. due to the toxic effect of these chemicals.
As calls for non-chemical agriculture increase, Asitava Sen, CEO of CropLife India, spoke to The Indian Express about various aspects of the industry.
What would be the research and development (R&D) budget for the development of new molecules for the sector? With pest attacks and disease becoming more the norm than the exception, is it a race against time for corporate R&D?
India has only 280 registered phytosanitary molecules (active ingredients) for a global portfolio of more than 1,175 molecules. One of the reasons for the decline in agricultural productivity is the low use of crop protection. Indian farmers need newer, safer (with lower doses of AI / ha), more environmentally friendly and more efficient products.
The solution is to promote a science-based policy and regulatory ecosystem that encourages innovation and R&D. A new product / molecule absorbs Rs 2,000 crore of investment in R&D over 10 to 12 years. CropLife India member companies are engaged in cutting-edge technologies and have annual global R&D spending of US $ 6 billion (nearly 7.5 percent of their revenue) which leads to newer and safer innovations for farmers around the world.
One of the main missing elements in India is the lack of legal provisions to support innovation and the registration of new products, such as Regulatory Data Protection (PRD). Without this provision, it will be difficult for Indian farmers to get new products and more choices for pest / disease and weed control. The availability of new crop protections brings healthy competition and much greater choices for farmers to control pests.
Plant protection has always been accused of making agriculture unsustainable. With the use of chemicals, the risk factor, according to many, increases. With growing awareness or noise about it, how do you approach this problem?
India has great agro-climatic diversity and limited agricultural land. It needs a wide range of crop protection products. Climate change and cultivation methods are causing new pests and diseases. According to government sources, 15 to 25% of Indian agricultural production is lost each year due to pests.
One of the reasons for the decline in agricultural productivity is the low use of crop protection. India has one of the lowest crop protection uses per hectare (307 g / ha), compared to up to 13 kg / ha in the United States, Japan, China or other countries.
Crop protection is therefore a key part of the government’s food security goals, doubling farmers’ incomes and providing safer food through the introduction of newer and better products.
The Indian crop protection industry is also a net exporter and has the potential to become a major global sourcing hub, supporting the government’s goals for âAtmanirbhar Bharatâ, âMake in Indiaâ and âGo Globalâ.
Looking at the potential of the sector, the government has also declared the agrochemical sector as one of the 12 champion sectors, where India can be a key player in the global supply chain.
The industry is also well regulated by central and state governments, and checks and balances exist to regulate the quality, movement and use of products. Bio-pesticides and bio-stimulants are also being promoted and have great prospects for the future.
There is no alternative but to continue to safely and judiciously use newer, safer and better chemicals and non-chemicals to control pests and promote better application technologies. such as drones.
India has taken a stand against GM crops (except cotton). Would the introduction of GM variants reduce the need for chemicals for crop protection?
New technologies and innovation lead to increased productivity, improved quality and income for farmers; GM is no exception. New technologies can coexist and complement each other rather than cannibalize each other. For example, herbicide tolerant (HT) cotton can actually assist in the application of some very effective and popular categories of herbicides to kill weeds in a labor efficient manner.
How strong are extension services when it comes to reaching farmers to educate them on safety features? What kind of initiatives are companies taking in India?
CropLife India and the responsible industry as such have demonstrated their sustained commitment to promote stewardship as a key driver of a resilient, sustainable and profitable (for farmers) food and agri-food sector in India through multiple initiatives .
We have a long history of raising awareness and building capacity on sustainable practices among various stakeholders, including farmers, agro-input retailers, agricultural extension staff, customs officials, key stakeholders and several NGOs.
The Covid-19 crisis has exposed the vulnerability of rural India and agricultural food systems, highlighting the need to raise awareness of behaviors appropriate to Covid, and digital solutions to connect farmers to markets.
CropLife India is digitizing all efforts to educate farmers on the safe and wise use of crop protection products, which has been our motto. A poster to educate farmers on ‘Safety points in agriculture during the Covid-19 pandemic’ was designed and digitally shared. We have created a CropLife Farmer Training Film, an educational video featuring both stewardship and anti-counterfeiting messages for the welfare of farmers; available in eight languages: English, Hindi, Punjabi, Gujarati, Bengali, Marathi, Kannada and Telugu.
What is the total size of the market and how fast is it growing?
According to CropLife India estimates, the size of the domestic market for crop protection products in India is estimated at Rs 232.2 billion per sales in 2020. It registered an annual growth of 10.3% compared to 2019 , when the market was valued at 210.5 billion rupees. . Over the past five years, the crop protection market in India has grown at a CAGR of 6.1%.
The total Indian agrochemical industry is worth 500 billion rupees and could reach 800 billion rupees by 2026, of which exports are estimated to be around 60% at 480 billion rupees.