Importance of Crop Protection Products in Indian Agriculture


Chemical crop protection products, commonly referred to as pesticides or agrochemical products, play a vital role in controlling the pests and diseases that infect, consume or damage crops thereby significantly reducing the quantity and quality of food production, while the benefits of agricultural innovation goes to farmers and consumers. Chemical crop protection products or “pesticides” help control insects, diseases, weeds, fungi and other undesirable pests. It is estimated that annual crop losses could double without the use of crop protection products. Based on the type of pesticide, the pesticide market is classified into fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, and others. On the basis of the type of crop, the pesticides market has been categorized into rice, cereals, fruits, rice, corn, nuts, soyabean, cotton, vegetables, and others. The pesticides market will witness robust growth in the vegetables, fruits, and nuts segment. Synthetic pesticides have been extensively used in the country for alleviating the estimated 45% gross loss of crops due to infestation of pests and diseases.
In response to a query from the Parliamentary Standing Committee (2012-2013) on the extent to which agriculture production has increased by the use of pesticides,the Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals in its written reply stated that
[su_quote]Every year in India, pests and diseases eat away, on an average, 20-30% of food, worth about Rs. 45000 crore, produced by the farmers. World over, the damage by fungi to rice, wheat and maize alone costs $60 billion per year and the Fungal diseases destroy 125 million tonnes of rice, wheat, maize, potatoes and soyabeans each year. Stemming fungal diseases alone in the world’s five most important crops could feed more than 600 million people. It is, therefore, essential to control the pests and diseases through Primary Plant Protection for providing sufficient food security to the growing population of the country. (Source: Agriculture Today: The National Agriculture Magazine, July 2012). “Green Revolution” during the 1960s and 1970s, has considerably increased the crop production and made India self-sufficient in food. It is mentioned that apart from High Yielding Seeds, chemical fertilizers, irrigation; pesticides played a very important role in enabling the Green Revolution. However, it is difficult to segregate the contribution, exclusively made by pesticides. Availability of safe & effective pesticides and their judicious use by the farming community is critical to a sustained increase in agricultural production and 8 productivity. Pesticides are also useful in health programmes for controlling vectors, responsible for diseases like malaria.[/su_quote]

Government Regulations and Registrations

Pesticides is a deregulated sector. The country is by and large self- sufficient in the production of technical pesticides and their formulations. India is a net exporter of pesticides. The pesticides industry is governed by the provisions of the Insecticide Act, 1968 which is administered through the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture. Central Insecticides Board and the Registration Committee are the agencies under the Department to regulate the manufacture, distribution, export, import, ban and usage of pesticides. Insecticide Act is enforced by the State Governments. The Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals plays the role of a facilitator for the growth of the Industry.
With a view to prevent risk to human health, animals and environment, the manufacture, import, sale, transportation, distribution and use of pesticides are governed under the provisions of the Insecticide Act, 1968, which is administered through Ministry of Agriculture, Department of Agriculture and Cooperation (DAC) and not by Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals.
The other vital issues of pesticides industry such as prevention of use of spurious pesticides, quality standards, testing, review of use of pesticides, to create awareness about judicious use of pesticides among the farmer community are also looked after by the DAC.

Challenges Faced by the Industry

Time bound grant of licences, grant of registration for new pesticides molecules, accreditation of private laboratories to function as Central Pesticide Laboratories (CPL), elaborate procedure for withdrawal of pesticide samples and making punishments more stringent for misbranded, sub-standard and spurious pesticides are the main concerns of this segment. All these issues are dealt with by Department of Agriculture & Cooperation.

Importance of the Pesticides Management Bill

According to the Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals, the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation is in the process of amending the Insecticides Act, 1968, to be replaced by Pesticides Management Act (PM Act). “Pesticides Management Bill has been introduced by the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation. It is under consideration of the Rajya Sabha since October, 2008. Some major concerns, for reddressal are revision of definition of pesticides to cover all substances intended to be used as pesticides; Provision for suspension and/or cancellation of registration to empower the Registration Committee (RC) to suspend and/or cancel registration; Provision for data protection to encourage faster introduction of new pesticide molecules for the benefit of the farming community; Provision for registration of pesticides only after fixation of tolerance limits (Maximum Residue Limits) under Food Safety & Standards Act, 2006 for monitoring pesticide residues on the crops on the pests of which it is intended to be used; Provision for restricted movement of pesticides, registered only for the purpose of export; Provision for improvement in the licensing procedure; No ‘Stop Sale’ of pesticides by Pesticide Inspectors without permission of a Magistrate; Powers of Pesticide Inspectors to Customs Officers for checking illegal imports of pesticides; Clarity in the procedure for sampling and testing of samples for monitoring quality of pesticides; Mandatory accreditation of laboratories testing pesticides for monitoring their quality; Classification of offences and provision of penalties commensurate with the gravity of offence; Provision for ‘Compensation’ in case a pesticide fails to perform. xiii. Provision for time-bound disposal of obsolete pesticides.

Advent of Pesticides in farming

Since the discovery of DDT in the 1940s, chemical pesticides were largely used in farming practices. The importance of pesticides for agriculture is enormous because they are considered as one of the major tools to protect crops and increase the yield. Today, the crop protection products sector is a fast developing industry, which is open to innovation. The pesticides market is also propelled by factors like growing population, and the need for minimizing crop damage.
The opportunity lies in developing and executing innovative farming solutions that address the needs of the Indian farmer with very low landholding size, resources and knowhow available to him. India has to ensure food security for population of 1.21 billion while facing reduction in cultivable land resource. With increasing population, demand for food grains is increasing at a faster pace as compared to its production. This necessitates the use of pesticides or crop protection chemicals in a judicious manner within the confines of a regulatory framework of the country.
The Asia-Pacific regions consumption and demand for pesticides is primed to witness fast growth on a global basis, with China and India taking clear lead in propelling this vital segment of crop protection products. Population statistics in the region have been responsible for maintaining adequacy in agricultural practices, ensuing in greater utilization of pesticides in areas that were ignored in the past. India’s pesticides market is slated to post a volume CAGR of 8.9% and a value CAGR of 9.3% between 2014 and 2020.

Growth drivers for Pesticides

Major factors driving growth for pesticides in India include greater demand for food grains, increasing awareness regarding loss of crops due to not using pesticides. Despite this, the Indian pesticides industry has had to confront numerous challenges, including high costs of research and development, threat posed by genetically modified seeds, requirement for efficient distribution systems, support for integrated pest management (IPM) and pervasiveness of counterfeit products. Primary opportunities offered include scope for increase in utilization, huge potential for exports and expiry of patents and expansion of product portfolios.

Crop Life India

Crop Life India is an association of technology driven crop science industry, committed to responsible crop care and crop production for the safe and sustainable development of Indian agriculture. It promotes the benefits and responsible usage of crop protection products, as well as sound science based regulatory system to protect people and the environment, timely access to crops, usage of new pesticides to support a sustainable agriculture system in India. It is a unit of Crop Life International, a global federation of the plant size industry in over 90 countries.
Sharing the common goal of sustainable agriculture while augmenting farmers’ welfare, Crop Life India partnered with the Department of Agriculture and Co-cooperation, Government of India, to launch the “Grow Safe Food campaign”, in line with the country’s efforts to improve agriculture production, quality food crops for a billion-plus population. The nation-wide initiative is aimed at promoting awareness and capability-building efforts such as hands-on training for farmers on the Responsible Use of chemicals, GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) and IPM (Integrated Pest Management) to improve the country’s agriculture challenges on permissible usage of agriculture exports and technical barriers to trade.
The collaboratory efforts of the campaign aims to educate farmers, agriculture extension workforce, Agri-input retailers, district a culture officials and NGOs, on the responsible use of chemicals, warehouse management for secured pesticide storage, awareness on counterfeit products, usage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in fields.
As an extension of its Stewardship efforts, Crop Life India piloted projects in three states covering the districts of East Godavari in Andhra Pradesh, Bharuch in Gujarat and East Champaran in Bihar, targeting around 6,000 farm families for the next two years. The awareness program for farmers include classroom and practical field training sessions with a curriculum of 16 elaborative modules covering IPM, role of beneficial insects including pollinators, judicious and responsible use of chemicals, secure storage of pesticides, impacts of counterfeit and illegal products, use of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) such as masks and gloves, correct spraying techniques, maintaining sprayers and nozzles, and triple rinsing of used containers.
Agri-input retailers being the source of information for farmers on pest and disease management, over 1.6 lakhs licensed dealers across the country have been issued advisories to create awareness on illegal and counterfeit products.
Further in its outreach initiatives, CropLife India created a short video that explains potential risks and dangers of counterfeit and illegal crop protection products particularly for the farmers. The video is available in 7 languages – Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada – and is used in the trainings across the country.
Apart from trainings, key messages are reinforced through hoardings and banners in the villages whilst other communication means such as posters and leaflets are also used to maximise reach to all the stakeholders.
Why do Indian farmers need pesticides? Food crops must compete with 30,000 species of weeds, 3,000 species of nematodes and 10,000 species of plant-eating insects. We know that despite the use of modern crop protection products 20-40% of potential food production is still lost every year to pests. These losses can occur while the crop is growing in the field, when it is in storage and in the home. In short, an adequate, reliable food supply cannot be guaranteed without the use of crop protection products.
Chemical crop protection products, commonly referred to as pesticides or agrochemical products, play a vital role in controlling the pests and diseases that infect, consume or damage crops thereby significantly reducing the quantity and quality of food production, thereby the benefits of agricultural innovation goes to farmers and consumers. It is estimated that annual crop losses could double without the use of crop protection products. Agrochemicals, which form a major division of the chemical industries in India, refer to a broad range of pesticides, including insecticides, herbicides and fungicides. India is one of the largest producers of agrochemicals in the world. The domestic market is primarily driven by insecticides, followed by herbicides and fungicides. Low manufacturing costs and availability of process technologies attract multinational companies to form strategic alliances with agrochemical companies in India, resulting in transfer of technology and sharing of knowledge.
Herbicides Save crops by controlling weeds and unwanted vegetation, such as thistles and nettles.
Fungicides Protect plants by combating harmful crop diseases, such as potato blight and reduce fungal toxins. Insecticides Safeguard crops by controlling insect pests, such as aphids and improve human health. Certain uses of Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs) may be desirable when they benefit society by controlling pests that spread disease or threaten the food supply.
There is tremendous opportunity for the Indian Pesticide Industry to manufacture and introduce off patent products. However due to ambiguity in registration the progress of the industry has been on hold. With our huge talent pool of qualified Indian scientists and technicians, we should look at increasing investments and are well capable of introducing newer molecules. Ample opportunities are available for growth.
Crop Life India has a long history of creating awareness and building capacity on sustainable practices among various stakeholders including farmers, agri-input retailers, agricultural extension staff and several NGOs. Through these initiatives, Crop Life India is demonstrating its sustained commitment to promote stewardship as the key driver for a resilient, sustainable and a profitable food and agribusiness sector in India.
Crop Life India works in close coordination with Crop Life Asia & Crop Life International, the parent organisations, to drive programs on Stewardship, Regulatory, IPR/Data protection, Promotion of safe , responsible & judicious use of CP products under IPM approach.