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Chemicals and Petrochemical Secretary, P Raghavendra Rao, today concurred with the industry’s view on the need for data protection provisions in the Insecticides Act to encourage R&D in crop protection products and combat the menace of spurious pesticides.
Inaugurating the 7th National Agrochemicals Conference 2018, organised by FICCI jointly with the Department of Agriculture Cooperation & Farmers Welfare and Department of Chemicals & Petrochemicals, Government of India, Rao advised the Central Insecticide Board and Registration Committee (CIB&RC) to engage in this area expeditiously.
He said that agrochemicals had a significant role in ushering in the second green revolution as data showed that 30 percent of agrochemicals currently in use in agriculture sector were spurious or of sub-standard quality. Expressing concern at the high wastage or loss of food annually, currently reckoned at 40 percent of food production, of which 20 percent was attributed to pests, Rao said that it was imperative for all stakeholders to put their heads together to come up with workable solutions to crop losses.
Rao suggested that efforts should be made to make farmers aware of the genuineness of plant protection pesticides so that the fake products could be kept at bay. He also laid stress on food and nutritional security and emphasised the critical role of micro-irrigation.
Rao also released a FICCI- Tata Strategic Management Group Knowledge Paper titled ‘Doubling Farmers' Income: Role of Crop Protection Chemicals & Solutions’.
Speaking on the occasion, Rafael Del Rio, Managing Director & Territory Head (South Asia), Syngenta India, said that the biggest challenge before India was to keep the farmers in their villages and stopping their migration to cities. Based on the experience worldwide, he called for removal of distribution distortions, measures to enhance crop productivity, nutritional efficiency and adoption of modern farming practices.
Rio said that the period for data protection in the development of pesticides should be no less than 10 years and underlined the need for such a regulation in India.
DDK Sharma, Additional Plant Protection Advisor, CIB&RC, said that the committee was working intensively to enhance the ease of doing business for which export guidelines have been relaxed. Companies with firm export orders can now apply online for registration which is granted within a week. With the new dispensation, 96 percent of the applications are cleared online, he said.
RG Agarwal, Chairman, FICCI Sub-Committee on Crop Protection Chemicals and Group Chairman, Dhanuka Agritech underlined the need for revival of the agriculture extension programme with concerted efforts towards dealers’ training through agricultural universities.
He said that in order to give a better deal to the farmers, there was a need to abolish APMC Acts and give freedom to farmers to market their products anywhere in India; support horticulturists by financing of 4-wheelers; creation of farmer markets for farmers to sell their fruits and vegetables to consumers directly in all towns to get better prices and reduce GST on pesticides from 18 percent to 5 percent like on fertilisers and other agriculture products.
The FICCI- Tata Strategic Management Group Knowledge Paper states that Indian farmers have a critical role to play to ensure that Indian agriculture not only meets the needs of an exploding population in India, but also caters to the global need for nutrition. However, a lot needs to be done to empower farmers so as to turn the poverty-ridden farmers into self-sufficient ones.
The key imperatives for the government in this regard are: Investment in irrigation infrastructure as 54 percent of land under cultivation is still dependent on rainwater; linking farmers with e-NAM and other such digital platforms to ensure better prices for output and prevent farmer exploitation; to pass the Pesticide Management Bill 2017 and strictly enforce regulations for manufacturing, inspection, testing and distribution of pesticides and also establish system of licensing; formulate a single anti-counterfeiting committee/body to arrest the spread of non-genuine pesticides; micro loans for farmers to invest in pesticides, fertilisers, seeds and other focus areas like poultry and animal husbandry which serve as alternative sources of income.
The farming community needs to ensure scientific usage of pesticides viz. implementation of integrated pest management (IPM) to ensure efficient crop protection; use new varieties of crop with better resistance to diseases and better productivity; implement technology based solutions to reduce labour at farms and utilise mobile applications for knowing market prices, weather conditions, fertiliser and pesticide information along with effective use of water resources to increase and maintain soil nutrients for greater crop productivity.
On its part, Industry would have to focus on producing high-quality crop protection chemicals to avoid harmful effects on crop by reducing their residual content and educate farmers to distinguish between certified and spurious crop protection chemicals available in the market.