As the dreaded fall army worm (FAW) spreads across the country, impacting the kharif maize crop, entities involved in creating awareness among the farmers have urged that the pesticides and safety kits used in containing the pest be exempted from GST.
The FAW infestation has been severe this year and awareness is being created among farmers by both private and public sector entities early in the crop cycle to contain the impact.
Call for GST exemption
“The government needs to step in now and exempt pesticides, pheromone traps and lures and other accessories such as safety kit, masks and gloves for effective management of the FAW from GST,” said Bhagirath Chaudhary, Director, South Asia Biotechnology Centre (SABC), New Delhi.
Agrochemicals, pestcides and the kits currently attract a GST of 18 per cent. Botanicals and biologicals, that have neem extract, attract a GST of 5-12 per cent, he said.
“Pheromone trap is the fundamental requirement in the context of emerging problem of FAW as it help farmers to monitor the pests and mass trap them and disturb their mating cycle,” Chaudhary said. Reduction of GST will help the farmers reduce costs in tackling the FAW menace.
For the past several weeks, SABC has been implementing Project Saffal (Project Safeguarding Farmers and Agriculture against FAW) to create awareness among thousands of farmers across key producing regions in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.
The project, aimed at developing a suite of technologies, good agricultural practices and control measures along with educational material for various stakeholders to enhance farmers' preparedness to tackle the menace of fall army worm, is supported by the FMC Corporation and implemented by key stakeholders in the maize value chain.
“There has been tremendous response to our awareness campaign from farmers and the State agriculture departments in places such as Davangere, Haveri, Dharwar, Aurangabad and Chhindwara among others,” Chaudhary said. SABC expects to expand the project to Gujarat, Rajasthan, Chhatisgarh and Tamil Nadu soon.
Though the quantum of affected area is not known, the pest has been spreading fast and into newer regions. Prevailing dry spell and humid conditions is conducive to the spread of the pest, Chaudhary said.
“The damage is severe this year,” said A N Shylesha, Senior Scientist at the National Bureau of Agricultural Insect Resources. There’s some recovery in plants in irrigated areas wherever the farmers have taken up measures to contain the pest, he added.
R G Agarwal, Chairman, Dhanuka Agritech Ltd, said 10 million hectares of maize acreage in the country is vulnerable to FAW attack. Dhanuka has conducted workshop with Anand Agriculture University to spread awareness among maize growers in Gujarat.
FAW was traced first in July last year in Karnataka. It has spread rapidly to almost the entire South India, including Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Central India, including Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and the North-East region.
A special task force has also been formed by the Centre to look into the menace. The Union Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers' Welfare, has recommended three chemicals for control of this pest – Spinetoram 11.7% SC, Chlorantraniliprol 18.5% SC, and Thiomethoxam.