Ensuring Safe and Sustainable Agriculture July 2015

Pesticide industry has come a long distance since the establishment of a plant for the production of BHC near Calcutta in 1952. Today India is the second largest manufacturer of pesticides in Asia after China and ranks twelfth globally. The crop protection market has experienced strong growth in the past and is expected to grow further

Indian agrochemicals market is supported by strong growth drivers. Current low consumption of crop protection products in India, 0.6 kg/ha compared to world average of 3 kg/ha, offers immense opportunities for future growth. Availability of cheap labour and low processing costs offers opportunity for MNCs to setup their manufacturing hubs in India for their export markets. The sector is also driven by huge opportunity for contract manufacturing and research for Indian players due to large availability of technically skilled labour.

Despite the strong growth drivers, Indian agrochemicals industry faces challenges in terms of low awareness among farmers. With large number of end users spread across the geography, managing inventory & distribution costs is a challenge for the industry players. The prevalence of spurious pesticides is also dampening the growth prospects of pesticide industry in India. Effectiveness of current supply chain management (SCM) practices in agrochemicals is another area of concern for the industry. Companies face issues due to seasonal nature of demand, unpredictability of pest attacks and high dependence on monsoons.

Recently India’s agriculture has received wide criticism both abroad and locally for the amount of pesticide residues in many of the farm produce deemed fit for human consumption. Unscientific use of pesticides has tarnished the reputation of pesticides in India. Food safety has emerged as a biggest concern today. The fear of the rampant use of pesticides and their long lasting health effects have forced people to look for alternatives like organic farming and bio pesticides. Demand for organic food products is growing rapidly across the globe and in India. Raising organic food is more complicated than merely excluding the pesticides and other chemicals from the growth regime. Converting conventional farms into organic farms is a step by step process and the certifications are costly. The guidelines laid out by certification agencies must be stringently followed. We need stringent measures to ensure that only certified organic products reach the market and the safety of the food be ensured with regular food inspections.

Promotion of IPM, zero budget farming and usage of bio-pesticides by Indian Government and NGOs is gaining momentum. With increasing demand for organic food, farmers in certain states like Karnataka have reduced chemical usage and have adopted organic farming. Agrochemical companies will have to tackle the rising environmental awareness and address concerns on negative impact of pesticide usage. In years to come, pesticide usage will increase counting on the pressing need to increase food production and changing pest dynamics. Although chemical free options exist, for a large country like India ditching pesticides will not be a viable option. But safer chemicals, scientific usage of pesticides and proper awareness can maintain a balance between food safety and food security. Dr

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