Increasing pressure on agriculture and deteriorating global climate has led to the need of specialized protection and management tools for crops. Crop protection aims at using an interdisciplinary approach towards managing and protecting crops from diseases, weeds and pests. Apart from growing demand for food, rapidly increasing population means that additional land will be needed to cater the requirement of animal food and for growing energy crops. Land being largely constant is a scarce resource. Here, crop protection helps in optimal use of land. Also, by protecting crops from diseases and weeds, it avoids crop damage, hence playing a vital role in increasing crop yield and future availability of food. It would be very apt to say that crop protection has become crucial for overall sustainable development of agriculture system all over the world.
As a result, global crop protection industry has emerged as a fastest growing industry, emphasizing on innovation and application of more advance methods to achieve greater and effective control. Within the crop protection industry, agrochemical industry producing synthetic pesticides such as insecticides, herbicides & fungicides, dominates.While Asia-Pacific stands as one of the largest market for crop protection chemical products, countries like China, India & South-East Asia has huge untapped market for the industry driven basically byrapid population growth & reduction in arable land. Here, looking at the Indian Crop Protection Chemical Industry would be interesting as Indian society is predominantly agriculture-based.
Indian Crop Protection Industry is of enormous importance, not only to Indian farmers but also to the Indian economy as agriculture is a significant part of it employing majority of the workforce in India. As per the reply of Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals, to a query related to the use of pesticides, by the Parliamentary Standing Committee (2012-2013), every year in India, pests and diseases eat away on an average 20-30% of food produced.Also, a study conducted by ASSOCHAM and Yes Bank in Feb, 2014 says that pests and diseases have resulted into annual crop losses worth about Rs 50,000 crore. These research reports show the importance of increasing the use of agrochemical productsby Indian farmers. Unfortunately due to poverty, lack of awareness and limited reach, per capita consumption of crop protection products in India is much lower compared to other countries in the world.The per-hectare usage of agrochemicals is only 0.6 kg in India, while for UK it is 7 kg and for China and Japan it is 13 kg and 17 kg, respectively. This creates huge untapped market offering tremendous growth potential in India’s Crop Protection Industry.
Despite having second largest crop protection chemicals industry in Asia, after Japan, with a size of above Rs 26,000 crore, use of these crop protection products have been very less by Indian farmers. Almost 50% of these products are exported. As per the report of Indian Journal of Ecology, crop losses due to non-usage of crop protection products were about 17.5 per cent of the yield amounting to Rs 90,000 crore per annum.Consequently, lack of awareness regarding the use of crop protection products among Indian farmers have been a serious challenge for the industry. Government is taking great efforts to educate farmers about the importance of these products.FICCI in association with the department of chemicals & petrochemicals, and department of agriculture & cooperation is organising various seminars to make farmers aware of the importance of these products.
Apart from lack of awareness among Indian farmers, Indian crop protection chemicals industry faces other challenges as well such as influx of spurious crop protection products, affecting crop yield, health and environment. Around 25% of the Indian pesticides market is constituted of fake pesticides. Also, the R&D in this industry is hampered by the lead period of 3years between a product is applied for patent and the time it is placed in the market, which is actually around 10-12 years between a product is conceptualized and placed in the market. Hence, developing a crop protection product considering market conditions, challenges and regulations 10-12 years ahead is tough and ambiguous task.
However, going by the positive side of the Crop Protection Industry in India, i.e. huge untapped market offering tremendous growth opportunities; with collaborative efforts of government and manufacturers, the scenario can be improved. Manufacturers should try to come closer to Indian farmers and try to understand their problems and need before strategizing their production plans. Also, through stringent regulations the growth of spurious pesticides in Indian pesticides market can be prevented.
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Ankur Gupta, Head Marketing & Communications