India Must Focus on R&D in Specialty Molecules to be an Agro-chemical Hub: CropLife India


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India must concentrate on research and development of specialty formulations if its wants to become a hub for manufacture of agrochemicals.  Multinational corporations invest about 8-10 percent of their revenues in R&D compared to Indian-bred companies which spend 1-2 percent, says CropLife India, an association of agrochemical companies, whose members account for 243 of 260 plant protection molecules registered in India.

Ease of introduction of the latest pest control technology can provide farmers an alternative to spurious products, which according to a study done for Ficci, an industry association in 2015, accounted for about a third of pesticides sold by volume in India.

‘When globally old molecules are gradually replaced with new technology molecules, why deny the Indian farmer from using new-age molecules, which are safer and greener,’ asks Puneet Singh Thind, a progressive vegetable grower and President of the Rashtriya Kisan Sanghatan.

‘Crop protection is not just about using chemicals to manage pests. We must have holistic, environmentally- safe crop health solutions for the overall well being of Indian agriculture and of farmers,’ says Ram Mudholkar, Chairman, CropLife India and President, South Asia of DuPont Pioneer.

CropLife India has been making efforts for introduction of progressive regulations that are compatible with protocols of OECD, a grouping of mainly rich countries. The concept of crop grouping, changes in regulation to enable innovation at a faster pace, and promotion of good manufacturing practices are some of the initiatives it has undertaken, says CEO Brij Uberoi.

On average only one molecule out of one lakh screened chemical compounds get identified and selected for development. It takes 8-10 years from discovery to enter the approval process and can cost about Rs 1,600 cr. For farmers to be able to use a new product, it must undergo about four years of evaluation for efficacy, safety, and prescription of maximum residue limits. Another year or two are required for review of data and final registration.

Spurious and substandard products contaminate the soil and water. Products with safer and greener chemistry need lesser application and leave little residue in the food chain.

The Indian chemical industry is the third largest in Asia and the sixth largest in the world. It contributes 2 percent of India’s GDP.

(Top photo: Farmers used a cocktail of pesticides to control whitefly attack on cotton in Punjab and Haryana last year.  Photo by Vivian Fernandes)