Industry estimates that 40 percent of crop protection chemicals sold in India are non-genuine which is developed by bypassing regulations and field trials with inferior formulations and sold by the strong nexus of manufacturers, retailers and local administration. They are ineffective in checking pests and disease and further create menace by harming soil fertility; human and cattle health; environment and revenue loss to farmers; industry and the government. MOHD MUSTAQUIM analyses the issue
With 2.4 percent land resources and 4 percent fresh water, India feeds 17.84 percent of world’s population. And thus, the Indian agriculture sector remains vital for global food security.
With introduction of high yielding varieties, mechanization, intervention of technological advancements during and after Green Revolution, though the yield per hectare has doubled, Indian agriculture is still grappling with multiple challenges. Despite being crucial for global food security, continuous shrinking arable land due to urbanization and non agriculture establishments, wastage of crops during and post-harvest, high monsoon dependency, unpredictable weather patterns are constituting big challenges for the farm production. Above all, the increase in pest attacks has become a menace for the standing crops. To add to the complexity, the agricultural workforce in India is expected to reduce in the coming decade. Thus, a combination of crop protection and crop enhancement solutions will be critical in future.
The United Nations estimates that India’s population would surpass Chinese population by 2022. To ensure the food and nutrition security for the growing population, the country will have to raise its agricultural production in sustainable manner.
However, there are good emerging trends and solutions for sustainable crop protection which include crop protection chemicals, agronomy, fertigation, seed treatment, plasticulture, biotechnology development, among others. The next phase of agriculture in the country will have to encompass all such possible solutions using the best practices in a given scenario. The solutions can lead to India becoming a global food basket in the future.
Expressing concerns on streamlining the agricultural practices, Hukmdev Narayan Yadav, Chairman, Standing Committee of Parliament on Agriculture says, “There is a need to adopt a holistic approach to be implemented in a very systematic manner to the farming sector in India. More focus needs to be given on R&D for ensuring sustainable development. The strategy would have to be implemented with full involvement of farmers who are the main stakeholders. I am requesting the farming community to imbibe latest knowledge and technologies and thus empower themselves.”
On crop loss due to the menace of pests, diseases and weeds, Yadav says, “It is a big loss for the farming community and for the country too if 15-25 percent crops get lost due to the menace in a situation when the country needs to raise the production to ensure food and nutrition security for growing consumption demand. And therefore, this is the need of the hour for concerted efforts to forge a R&D-led strategy to save the loss of crops.
The crop protection and crop enhancement solutions, based on the best global practices and the latest technologies available are the answer.
Crop Protection Chemicals Market
According a recent study, “Next Generation Indian Agriculture – Role of Crop Protection Solutions” released by FICCI and Tata Strategic Management Group (TSMG), India is the fourth largest global producer of agrochemicals after United States, Japan and China. This segment generated a value of USD 4.4 billion in FY15 and is expected to grow at 7.5 percent per annum to reach USD 6.3 billion by FY20. Approximately 50 percent of the demand comes from domestic consumers and the rest from exports. During the same period, the domestic demand is expected to grow at 6.5 percent per annum and exports at 9 percent per annum.
The industry is dominated by insecticides which contribute to 60 percent of the overall demand, followed by fungicides and herbicides which account for 18 percent and 16 percent of the demand, respectively.
Agrochemicals play a critical role in ensuring food and nutrition security. With estimated 355 MMTPA (million metric tonnes per annum) foodgrain requirement by 2030 from current 253 MMTPA, efficient usage of crop protection products and solutions is required.
To utilize the the underutilized potential, the industry, the Government and the regulatory bodies will have to work in the same direction in association with the farmers who are the largest stakeholder and to adopt digital communication for faster connect with the farming community.
The study highlights that the projection of Indian crop protection chemicals market is supported by strong growth drivers. Current consumption of crop protection products in India is at 600 gram per hectare, which is much lower than the world average of 3 kg hectare. The current low consumption offers opportunities for the growth. With several products going off-patent globally, the sector is opening opportunities for generics, contract manufacturing and research for Indian players who can leverage their large scientific talent pool. Integrated pest management (IPM) is one of the most effective and sustainable ways of tackling the issue of pests and diseases in Indian agriculture.
Menace of Non-genuine Pesticides
The non-genuine pesticides such as counterfeit, spurious and adulterated products seem to be a big menace for the farming sector. According to the industry estimates, 40 percent of crop protection chemicals sold in FY15 were non-genuine.
To reach the farmers’ fields, the agrochemicals have to go through a long process, from R&D, product development, lab testing, two years trial on crops, environmental testing, regulations and licensing which sometimes takes more than a decade. On the other hand, bypassing all trials and regulations non-genuine pesticides are made by inferior formulations or adulteration which are unable to effectively kill the pests and disease in the crops. Adding to the woes, they harm the crops, soil fertility and environment significantly; revenue loss to the farmers, industry and the government.
Showing concern on the menace of non-genuine crop protection chemicals, the veteran agriculturist politician, Yadav suggests that the problem needs to be handled jointly by farming community, pesticides manufacturers, local police administration, government and regulatory bodies within a deadline.
Speaking on the nexus of non-genuine pesticides, a farmer leader from Haryana, who is also the convenor of Rashtriya Kisan Sangathan (Punjab & Haryana), Puneet Singh Thind says, “Though there has been big talks on putting checks on spurious pesticides, but over the years, there has not been any action plan to check the sales of such counterfeit chemicals. We will have to break the nexus of spurious pesticides."
He adds that the retailers provide long period credits to the farmers on spurious pesticides than genuine products. “In the lack of awareness, farmers easily prefer non-genuine pesticides if a retailer gives 90 days credit on fake products and only 30 days credit or maybe no credit on genuine products”, Thind says.
Stressing on breaking the nexus of spurious pesticides, Rajnikant Shroff, CMD, United Phosphorous Ltd (UPL), says, “From the manufacturers to retailers to local police administration are part of the nexus of spurious pesticides. If a police inspector gets few lakhs of rupees, why would he act against the retailers and manufacturers? We collectively need to break the vicious cycle on an urgent basis.”
Lack of awareness among the farmers, difficulties on demarcation of genuine and fake products, weaker distribution channel, inefficient law enforcement, influence of retailers and distributors are the decisive factors behind sale of non-genuine pesticides.
Apart from non-genuine products, there has been a plethora of challenges in front of plant protection chemicals industry. Reaching farmers with right communication is also a big challenge. The multiplicity of languages and dialects, hesitation in accepting new technologies and products on a fear of possible crop loss on the part of farmers pose hurdles in penetrating the right products. Additionally, the retailers and distributors are the contact points between the manufacturers and farmers who in a larger view lack adequate technical expertise. It makes them unable to impart product understanding with the farmers.
The larger number of farmers or customers of pesticides are dominated by the generic nature of market in the absence of strong supply chain network. The lack of effective distribution channels creates a bumpy ride for the pesticide manufacturers to reach out to the farming community and for making them aware about the products. It also makes way for the locally made spurious products to reach easily to the retailers.
Besides, Indian agrochemicals industry spends only 1-2 percent of the revenue on R&D as compared to multinational pesticide manufacturing companies which, according to industry estimates, invest 8-10 percent. As a result, Indian companies remain incompetitive in speciality molecules in global markets.
The FY15 has been challenging for crop protection chemicals market in India. The deficient monsoon, droughts in some parts, low crops price realization in the international market which resulted into fall in farmers’ income, rupee devaluation, among various other reasons have collectively affected the pesticides market.
Commenting on the slowdown in crop protection chemicals market, Charu Kapoor, Principal - Chemicals Practice, Tata Strategic Management Group, says “The Indian crop protection industry has seen a significant slowdown in the past two years due to two consecutive years of drought and weak global demand. The monsoon this year looks promising and the industry could see improved conditions. To reduce business volatility from such macro factors and to build a more resilient business model, it is imperative for companies to explore adjacencies.”
Considering the harmful affects of non-genuine pesticides; the industry and the government collectively need to educate farmers through various means of mass media such as local and regional television channels, FM radio, wall paintings, retailer awareness programmes and road shows. Meanwhile, it is imperative to ensure right products reach to the hands of farmers by strengthening distribution network. As the issue is directly associated with country’s food security and farming community which constitutes half of India’s population, the administration at local level needs to have onus and act to put a complete check on the sales of spurious pesticides. The small benefits can translate into larger harm for national interest.