On the day we were going to interview Mr. Pradip Dave, President of Pesticides Manufacturers & Formulators Association of India (PMFAI), I saw the news which said that India surpasses the UK as the world's 5th largest economy based on IMF data and may become the world’s third-largest economy by 2028-30. As one of the pillar industries of the Indian economy, agriculture and its important agrochemical branch have contributed greatly to the economic growth.
The significance of agrochemicals has been rising over the last few decades catalyzed by the requirement to enhance the overall agricultural production and the need to safeguard adequate food availability for the continuously growing population in India. AgroPages spoke with Mr. Pradip Dave for an in-depth exchange on the performance and development trends of the agrochemical industry in India, as well as the work PMFAI is doing for industry development.
Mr. Pradip Dave
President of Pesticides Manufacturers & Formulators Association of India (PMFAI)
How do you view the development of India's agrochemical industry this year? What is the impact of the global supply chain crisis on the development of the industry?
Indian agrochemical industry is fast moving towards normalcy this year and we look forward for 8%-10% growth of industry during this year. Normal monsoon received all over parts of India is helping increased agricultural activities, which ultimately expected to result in increased use of crop protection products.
Recent global chain crisis also affected Indian industries too with shortage containers, shipping lines and high freight charges which affected Exports and imports. But it is getting back to normalcy.
Today I read the news that India surpasses the UK as the world's 5th largest economy based on IMF data and may become the world’s third-largest economy by 2028-30. What opportunities do you think India's booming economy will bring to the agrochemical industry?
India’s economy has been growing much faster rate than many developed countries and is on course to be third largest economy by 2030. Agriculture sector is one of the major sectors along with manufacturing, industry and services sector contributing to the growth of India’s economy.
Every year in India pests eat away nearly one fourth of food produced by the Farmers and annual Crop Losses due to Pests and Diseases amounts to 15% to 25% of the total output of the country. This necessitates more emphasis on crop protection and judicious use of agrochemicals that can cut down these losses that occur at multiple stages of crop growth. Consumption of pesticides in India is one of the lowest in the world and stands at 0.65 kg/ha against the global average consumption of 3 kg/ha. The role of Pesticides is not limited to protection from pests and diseases that threaten our food supply but they help in yield enhancement as well. This suggests that the market for pesticides is still largely unpenetrated with a huge room for future growth.
The significance of pesticides has been rising over the last few decades catalyzed by the requirement to enhance the overall agricultural production and the need to safeguard adequate food availability for the continuously growing population in the country.
Though India’s market share in global export market has grown from 3.3% in 2005 to nearly 10% now, the export market share is still low considering potential of the Indian manufacturers. With the quality products offered and competitive pricing, India expected to gain further market share in exports.
Recently, we have seen a lot of Indian companies introduce new products to the market, and at the same time, some pesticides have been banned due to food safety and trade concerns. In your opinion, what kind of iterative upgrading are pesticide products going through in India?
Indian companies like UPL, Gharda Chemicals, Coromandel etc has proven track record and competency to manufacture multiple products from the basic stage. Many Indian companies are registering new products and those products which has become off patent recently.
Government of India by issuing Notification dated 14th May 2020 had proposed ban of 27 generic pesticides and invited objections and suggestions from stakeholders. With over 1644 number of objections and suggestions from various stakeholders including research bodies, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Govt. of India appointed an expert committee to re-visit the proposal and for wide range consultation with stakeholders. The Expert Committee’s recommendations are yet awaited.
The basis for review and ban of pesticides, which has been followed was not because they posed risk to human being, animals or environment by its use in India, but because they were prohibited or restricted in some other countries. Any evaluation of chemicals be done using risk-based approach, which consider exposure for assessing risk to human or animal health and environment. FAO advises that the climate, crop grown, pests and diseases must guide the choice of pesticides for every country. Hence, basis of the review itself was contrary to the scientific approach. One of the reasons mentioned for proposed ban was Endocrine Disruption concerns. Majority of the countries in the world are in dis-agreement with EU in banning of pesticides on hazard basis as against the international norms of biosafety assessment of pesticides done on risk basis. Even CCPR, a body constituted by FAO and WHO continues to assess biosafety and approve pesticides including those possessing endocrine disrupting properties, through risk based assessment unlike that insisted by EU for pesticides having endocrine disrupting characteristics. In July 2019, thirty one WTO members including India called on the European Union to re-consider its approach on regulating pesticides.
The ban of 27 molecules (Technical Grade Pesticides) will result in removal of over 130 generic pesticides formulations from the market, which will hit crores of poor Farmers in the country who rely on these most reasonably priced generic pesticides for protecting their crops from pests and diseases, and forcing them to buy highly priced imported and patented alternatives. The ban of 27 molecules will be detrimental to Indian Agriculture as the ban would severely limit the pest control choices available to Indian Farmers in many crop/pest segments. We expect positive outcome in the matter.
It feels like everyone is talking about agricultural drones this year. What are the government guidelines for this industry? What is the development goal of this sector?
With the launch of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) by Govt. of India, use of Drones technology in Agriculture is a vital step to strengthen Indian eco system. Drones are going to be important for increasing efficiency of application of crop protection chemicals by reducing manpower requirement, reducing time of application, reducing volume of water, quantity of chemicals and saving drift to environment along with reducing exposure to human being to pesticides.
Drone technology is expected to help farmers optimize use of all agricultural inputs like Pesticides, Fertilizers and seeds more efficiently. Presently adoption levels are at pilot stage and this can increase significantly in coming years. Government of India is encouraging and extending support for adoption of drone technology in agriculture. More startup companies are entering into the business.
What major work has PMFAI done in the past year and this year?
As a national association representing Agrochemical industry in India, PMFAI is continuously involved in wide range of issues which are concerning the industry, including –
Registration & Regulatory matters concerning Pesticides
Environment protection related issues
National Chemical Policy
Foreign Trade Policy
Harmonization of Registration procedures for Pesticides
Upgrading the Agricultural Skills of Farmers
Promoting safe and judicious of crop protection products
The major area PMFAI work last year also included –
Presenting before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture major issues of concerns with regards to ″The Pesticide Management Bill 2020″ which is to replace existing Insecticides Act, 1968 to govern regulations concerning Pesticides in India. PMFAI presentation before the Standing Committee included – (1) Mandatory registration of Technical Grade Pesticides prior to granting registrations for Formulations (Import or Indigenous Manufacture); (2) Abolish policy of granting registrations for Formulation Import without registering Technicals and encouragement of indigenous manufacturing; (3) Not consider Data Protection for Agrochemicals beyond Patent period; (4) Removal of Harsh Punishments and Penalties proposed in the Bill and De-criminalization of Agrochemicals sector; and (5) Equality in guidelines of registration to all Pesticide industries.
Recommendations of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture in its Thirty Sixty Report concerning PMB 2020 included –
Registration Committee shall not register a Pesticide if Technical Grade Pesticide is not registered in India;
It also recommended that reference of Associated Impurities should also to be added to define a Technical Grade as this will lead to clear reflection of toxicity of Associated Impurities.
Data Protection is not considered for Agrochemicals beyond Patent period.
But the major concern of the Industry remained not considered is Harsh Punishments and Penalties proposed under ″Offences & Punishments″ ranging from INR 25,000 to INR 5,000,000 and imprisonment of 2 to 5 years. PMB 2020 casts wide-ranging liabilities upon a manufacturer of pesticide but fails to account for situations where a liability rises due to factors beyond the control of manufacturer. Harsh punishments and penalties proposed for minor violations are grossly disproportionate. For example, prohibiting sale of products for 2.5 years merely on the basis of information received or otherwise by Government is quite arbitrary. PMFAI has appealed to the authorities to re-visit to the section of ″Offences and Punishment″ in the Pesticide Management Bill 2020 and particularly for decriminalization of minor offences and violations.
PMFAI continued to take up the problems related to unfair Customs Duty structures existing on imports of Finished Products
PMFAI team of experts recently had detailed dialogue with senior officials of Central Pollution Control Board – CPCB (under Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change) on proposed revision of Effluent and Emission Discharge Standards by CPCB. PMFAI submitted its proposals for relaxation in discharge standards by submission of actual data related for discharge standards. The matter is under consideration of authorities.
PMFAI’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities during last year included –
Free distribution of safety kits to Farmers
Organising Farmers Trainings on Safe and Judicious use of Pesticides and related educational activities
Chemical Safety Management Training Workshops for employees and employers with responsibilities for managing safe and judicious use of chemicals at work
Distribution of Diaries to Farmers with messages for safety measures and Covid-19 precautions
Scholarship for children of Farmer especially for girls, handicapped persons for pursuing Bachelors or Masters’ Degrees or equivalent studies
Medical assistance to Farmers during Covid treatment
Will PMFAI organize the ICSCE event in 2023? Tell us more about this event.
PMFAI will be organizing 17th edition of its International Crop Science Conference & Exhibition (ICSCE 2023) on 16-17 February 2023 at Hyatt Regency Dubai & Galleria, Dubai, UAE. The event is receiving overwhelming response from agrochemical industry all over the world. This time there will be 80 exhibition booths and all leading Indian agrochemical companies are participating in the event.
ICSCE being an international platform for Agrochemical/Pesticide companies to develop strategic and sourcing relationships with international pesticide companies and to get updated on current trends in Agrochemical market. ICSCE is an annual international event organized by PMFAI to improve the health of Generic Pesticide Industry and to bring the researchers in the field of agriculture, pesticide manufacturers, agrochemical traders and allied industry under one roof. ICSCE provides opportunity for business expansion by way of joint ventures, bilateral trade, sub-contracting / contract manufacturing and distribution and networking opportunities for buyers and sellers to benefit mutually.
The 16th edition of ICSCE 2022 organized after long gap due to Covid-19 on 14 & 15 February 2022 in Dubai coinciding with Dubai Expo witnessed great participation from all over the world. With 600 plus footfall and more than 500 registered delegates’ participation, the event was a resounding success. We look forward for larger number of exhibitors and participants in the 17th edition of ICSCE 2023.
This article was initially published in AgroPages' '2022 India Focus' magazine.