Food and nutrition security is one of the most important challenges of the 21st century. The world’s population is expected to reach 9.1 billion by 2050, resulting in increasing demand for food production, especially in developing economies dominated by smallholders. With limited availability of productive agricultural land and other critical resources, governments, policymakers, research institutions, the private sector and farmers need to seek to adapt, innovate and cultivate practices that make efficient use of scarce resources.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UNFAO) estimates that without crop protection, global crop losses will double, with profound adverse effects on global food security. In India alone, farmers lose up to 25% of their yield due to pests. Safe and sensible crop protection (CP) is necessary to secure the future of food, critical as a tool to withstand the impacts of climate change on crops and as an enabler of economic growth and sustainable agricultural productivity. All three factors are very important in the specific context of Indian agriculture. Agriculture is the foundation of India’s economy, accounting for 18% of GDP and employing nearly 58% of the population. India has huge potential to become an agricultural superpower or Annadatta, not just for its citizens but for the world as well. Policy direction committed to ensuring and sustaining the safe and judicious use of CP products is critical to the continued growth of Indian agriculture. Furthermore, policy interventions must be complemented by a concerted focus on raising awareness among all stakeholders in the value chain on the importance of safe, judicious and appropriate use of crop protection tools.
Agricultural productivity: ensuring domestic food security and enhancing the export resilience of the agricultural sector
India is the largest producer and exporter of several important crops, from pulses and jute to wheat, rice, cotton, fruits and vegetables. India’s agricultural exports continue to grow, reaching an all-time high of $50.21 billion in 2021-22. Non-basmati rice, sugar, basmati rice and spices have been India’s top exports so far through 2023.
A dilemma arises here that despite the low domestic usage of CP products per hectare in India, there are instances of inappropriate and excessive use of CP products at the wrong stage and in many cases without proper safety equipment. Lack of awareness among farmers about the appropriate, safe and judicious use of chlorinated paraffins has knock-on effects on the health and well-being of farmers, agricultural productivity and profitability, and in some cases, exports from India due to high residue levels in Indian crops Rejected, in most cases, especially basmati rice exported to the EU region.
Common challenges in CP uptake
significant gap in understanding
The lack of adequate understanding of the application of CP on crops and the lack of guidelines for the safe use of CP have been key gaps affecting farmers.Farmers often use false crop protection measures
Implemented because they don’t know which products to rely on and trust ground fake dealers. This adversely affects not only plant health but also farmer health and crop productivity.
Policy and regulatory challenges
In terms of policy and regulatory environment, the policy and regulatory environment for CP is outdated and pesticides are regulated in India under the Pesticides Act, 1968 and the Pesticides Rules, 1971. A new Pesticide Management Bill, 2020 has been drafted to replace these Act laws and rules. The Pesticide Management Bill, 2020 needs to be enacted as the Pesticides Act and Pesticide Rules, 1968 are outdated in identifying new pesticide molecules and do not address the current realities and needs.
Furthermore, the policy and regulatory ecosystem is out of sync with the findings and realities of the scientific community, and policy and scientific developments are often uncorrelated with reality. These further influence the use and uptake of CP in India.
Crop protection is an important tool to secure our common food future, inject profitability into Indian agriculture and make India a leader in agri-food exports. Therefore, there must be a concerted effort to create awareness and bust myths, a renewed focus on policy and regulatory mechanisms for cleaner production in India, and continuous dialogue among key stakeholders and farmer-centric management to reap the benefits of crop protection in India. Indian Agriculture.
Farmer management and ongoing multi-stakeholder dialogue: the need of the hour
Awareness campaigns and myth-busting – a unified approach
First and foremost, a unified approach from key stakeholders such as government, the research community, agricultural science companies and farmer producer organizations aims to raise awareness on the proper use of crop protection and bust myths. Farmers must be given clarity on when to use which crop protection inputs, how to ensure their safe use and how to avoid counterfeit farm equipment through regular training and awareness-raising workshops conducted by the public and private sectors.
It is also important to dispel common myths and misconceptions about the use of CP in the agricultural community. Ongoing dialogue with government, based on the private sector and the research community, is also essential. Farmer-centric management is essential to increase the use of genuine crop protection products and promote safe and appropriate use of farm implements by farmers.
Breathing new life into the policy and regulatory landscape
The policy and regulatory ecosystem governing the use of crop protection inputs must be brought into the 21st century through the enactment of the Pesticide Management Bill 2020. Once passed, the bill will help regulate pesticide production and curb the sale of counterfeit products.
The Pesticide Management Bill, 2020 will ensure that farmers receive relevant and important information on all pesticides in the market, including their advantages and disadvantages, hazards and alternative products. With comprehensive information provided for each product, farmers are also able to control pesticide use to comply with the maximum residue levels (MRL) allowed in important export markets.
The Government of India is actively working towards boosting the agriculture sector with the right policy interventions. In this regard, a science-based, progressive and predictive regulatory regime will enable the sector to realize its true potential while encouraging efficient and sensible land use input. To complement progress in awareness building and policy space, ongoing dialogue between key stakeholders through open communication channels is critical. Farmers, agricultural scientists, policymakers, agribusiness and civil society must engage in an ongoing dialogue to transcend barriers, promote innovation and prioritize national interests. This will build trust among key stakeholders and ensure increased adoption of crop protection at farmer level, focusing on its safe and judicious use.
Crop protection secures food future
Crop protection products are critical to securing the future of food, combating climate uncertainty and injecting profitability into Indian agriculture, domestic and export markets. As the country faces the growing challenge of feeding a growing population while dealing with the uncertainty of climate change, the need to protect our crops has never been greater. Crop protection measures are the frontline defense against yield loss and destruction of farmers’ livelihoods. However, successful crop protection requires ongoing dialogue among key stakeholders to ensure that policy interventions are flexible and relevant. Equally important is the cultivation of stewardship responsibility among farmers, who play an active role in ensuring sustainable crop protection.
In this regard, awareness, policy orientation and coordinated multi-stakeholder dialogue focusing on the safe, appropriate and judicious use of crop protection products are crucial to ensure farmer well-being, environmental well-being and achieving sustained economic growth in the agricultural sector.
Author: Valasubramanian Ramaiah, Head of Regulatory and Governance, South Asia, and Head of Genome Editing Policy, Asia Pacific, Corteva Agriscience