All associations must work together to present a single voice to the government: Deepak Shah, Chairman, Crop Care Federation of India

  • September 29, 2021

Deepak Shah, the newly elected Chairman of the India’s oldest agrochemical association, Crop Care Federation of India (CCFI), spoke to Indian Chemical News on the sidelines of 54th AGM yesterday. Shah shared his views on goals of the association, its initiatives and outlook. 

Congratulations on being elected as the Chairman of CCFI. Agrochemical industry is riddled with fragmentation of the associations and they are working on silos. Do you have any plan to bring all these associations under one roof to make the voice stronger before the government?

I believe all the associations must work together. There are differences on a few issues besides that wherever issues are common, we will work hand in hand with them. And we all must work hand in hand and must present a single voice to the government. Wherever the issues are there or if there is a difference of opinion, we can separately approach the government for those points but wherever we have common issues which affect us or all of them, we will work together. We don’t consider other associations as our competitors, rather we want to work jointly for the industry.

There is a negative perception about the industry among common people and farmers. As one of the oldest associations, what are you planning to do on creating awareness to spread the message that pesticides or agrochemicals are here to benefit India and to benefit farmers and it has a major contribution to make India self-reliant on food?

You are absolutely correct. Without judicious use of agro-chemicals including pesticides we may not be able to produce the amount of food in the surpluses we have today.  As you are aware, we are one sixth of the world’s population. With every 6th person being Indian globally, we have the second largest population in the world. Looking at the geographic square kilometer area, we are one third of China, one third of America and maybe one fifth or one sixth of Brazil but we still are the second largest food grain, fruit and vegetable producer. I would say we have not reached the peak yet and the peak I believe will come after 7-8 years when balanced nutrition and safer pesticides along with some biological pesticides would be used. The real way to double the farmers’ income is not by simply increasing the price but we have to reduce their input cost and at the same time, they should improve their productivity per acre. This is the only way they can achieve better income.

I hear that there have been growing instances of duplicate agrochemical products in the market?

I will not say it is not at all there but the percentage is very small. Imagine with the same land area what you had 25 years ago when we were producing only 50-70 million tonnes of food grains, today we are producing 300 million tonnes which is five-six times more. This has been achieved despite the fact that the land area has reduced considerably. The myth that pesticides are dangerous is not correct. The real thing is that you have to use the quantity that is prescribed and the method of application and timing etc. Everything has to be kept in the mind. It’s like a medicine whose efficacy is only when we follow the doctor. It has to be used judiciously, with proper advice and in the right quantity. The overuse creates a lot of problems and farmers should understand that they must use protective clothing such as gloves, face masks and all that to stop the poisoning. Generally the poisoning doesn’t happen through the pesticides as these are diluted well. The 20 ml in 200 liters of water should not lead to toxicity or poisoning.

What is your take on the Pesticides Management Bill (PMB), 2020? What sort of amendments are you looking at to make it more supportive for industry and the farming community?

The Dr. Dalwai Committee has already recommended that if you want to increase the farmers’ income, you must support the formulation and encourage R&D for the domestic companies. You must create a competition rather than importing molecules that are 50-60 years old which is happening today. Because of this second fellow won’t get registration. The Indian market is not big enough to do a complete registration by an Indian company. The PMB should be designed in such a way that the Indian manufacturer is motivated to do more, the ease of business should be there. There is no Make in India provision and there is no provision that export should be promoted. The reason why export should be promoted is so that the same molecule or formulation becomes economical as the volumes will increase.

Is there going to be a paradigm shift in your approach post this AGM to bring the agrochemical industry to the fore?

We at CCFI want to work with both government and industry as they have to work hand in hand. They must help each other out in their own problems and the final aim of making India self-reliant by helping in the success of Make in India, Atma Nirbhar Bharat and other such programmes. Some of the shocks we have received in the last few years can be avoided in the future if we reduce our dependence on foreign countries.

How can we make India self-reliant in agrochemicals? What are your expectations from the government?

Any molecule which is 20 years old and whose patent has expired, is basically a proven molecule whose most of the parameters such as toxicity are known and so is its data related to risks and its origin. So it reduces the requirements during registrations. If all the dates are in the order, it reduces the time period by 6-12 months. Therefore, the temporary registration could be given and farmers start getting the benefits of the molecules immediately rather than waiting for 5-6 years for the same.

Are there any plans to enhance the membership of CCFI?

There is not much scope as all the large industries are our members. By large industries, I mean the Indian industries. The multi-nationals have their own agendas and thus have their own associations. They import a large amount of products and get them packaged to export back, earning a substantial amount of revenue returns that again goes back to their respective countries through foreign exchange. So, there is a double whammy here.

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