Oct. 4, 2019
Swiss agricultural company Syngenta plans to invest in technology in India and bring in its solutions for sustainable farming, the company’s chief executive J Erik Fyrwald told Rituraj Tiwari.
Fyrwald, who was at Eluru, near Vijaywada, to inaugurate a facility for product testing and development, said India is a critical market for Syngenta and the company wants to increase India’s share in its global revenue to 5-10% from 3% now. Edited excerpts:
At a time when the government is promoting zero budget natural farming, where does your company’s plan fit in?
We sell a lot of products in organic markets across the world. The challenge with the organic market is that the yields are very low. We sell organic seeds as well as organic pesticides. Since the efficacy of organic pesticides is low, it is used in very high volume.
It’s very expensive because of low yield and high use of pesticides to grow organic. The way organic is, it will be very difficult to earn money for farmers in India. But we are here to help farmers, whatever way they want to farm. I believe that best for Indian farmers is the smart use of technology.
The best seeds that can have the most robust plants which can withstand some diseases and insects. Moreover, it should be complemented by the crop protection that is needed. Not the ones that are not needed.
With 20% of the world’s population, India is very critical market for us. We want to grow with the industry. On an average, Syngenta has been growing at double-digit rate, outpacing the industry which has been registering single-digit growth. India contributes to less than 3% of our global revenue of $14 billion. We want to increase it.
In the last three years since the change of top management, we have been focusing on India. Now, we want India to contribute 5-10% of our total revenues.
PM Narendra Modi wants to double farmers’ income. Do you have any suggestions?
I am appreciative of PM Modi’s pro-business environment, which makes us confident to invest more in India. We are here to help farmers use better farming technologies, better seeds and optimum crop protection to increase yield. The more the yield, the more the income. For example, in Guntur (the chili pepper hub of India), we provided farmers better seeds that grew healthy insect-free chili pepper fruits, which got better price in the mandi. This is how we will ensure farmers earn more, not only in India but exporting these at better prices.
India and China are two big markets for you. What difference do you see in farming techniques in these countries?
In India, farm sizes are quite small. There are large number of small and marginal farmers. China has very big farms. In the past, China was using old technology and, hence, the yields were very low.
But now the government is open to adopting modern technologies, farms are being mechanised and farm innovations are taking place at a faster pace. Unfortunately, technology in India is not moving at the pace we would like.
What about GM crops in India?
I don’t expect India to adopt GM any time soon. So, we are not pushing GM technology in India. What is important for India is gene-editing technology. It’s more of an accelerated breeding technology that’s applied to selective breeding.
Scientists edit a plant’s genome to get desired results without transferring new genes from one organism to another. Gene editing is a relatively easy and low-cost technology, which will help developing nations grow drought-free corn or nutrient-fortified vegetables. This is already accepted in the US, Canada, Brazil and Argentina. China is looking favourable. They are doing research both on plants and humans.
Except Europe, all countries are looking favourable to this technology. We strongly recommend India to adopt gene editing in a controlled manner.
By Rituraj Tiwari