Viksit Bharat@2047: Spearheading the agri-tech sector of India to abundance

Viksit Bharat@2047: Spearheading the agri-tech sector of India to abundance

Indian plant protection industry needs unleashing its inherent potential through advanced technologies and enabling policies

  • By Dr. R.G. Agarwal , Group Chairman, Dhanuka Group | February 26, 2024

The earth is endangered with the burden of increasing population, more mouths to feed, shrinking arable land and climatic catastrophes. What is the scenario when it comes to plant protection?

Plant protection is paramount to sustain food and nutritional security of people of India besides enhancing the income of farmers. Panel on the Science and Technology to European Parliamentary Research services claims that without crop protection 50% of the crops will be lost in Europe. They however, opined that reduction in the use of plant protection chemicals seems possible only in case of very high actual use, and with the use of biologicals (AgNews, 2021). But pesticide consumed in India is only 52,466 tons (DPPQS, 2022-23) as against 4,09,374.74 tons (Eurostat, 2021) in EU.  Further, the pesticides consumed in India for 155.37 M ha of arable land at the rate of 360 g/ha cannot be considered at all a very high use, for possible reduction. Besides, the biopesticides consumed during the same period of 7,248 tons (DPPQS 2022-23) was not even sufficient to meet the requirement of even <1% of the arable land.                    

India has surpassed China in population, but when it comes crop yield, why is not comparable to its neighbour?

Analysis of Higher Yields of China vs India:

Comparison of the current agricultural scenario of India and China (Table 1 & 2), shows that despite its geographical advantage with 30% more arable land and 67% more rainfall, India’s agricultural (GDP 534.21 bn USD) is around1/3rd compared to that of China (1,288.35 bn USD). However, there exist a great disparity in the use of fertilizers and pesticides, the two essential drivers for higher production and productivity between the two countries. India uses only 209.4 kg per hectare of fertilizer compared to 383.3 kg per hectare in China.  Further, while India uses only 330 pesticides, including Bio-pesticides (DPPQS, 2023), more than 900 pesticides are registered for use in agriculture in China. Besides, the dosage of pesticides used in India is one of the lowest in the world with merely 360g per hectare consumption compared to 13.07 kg per hectare in China.

Table: 1 Contribution of agriculture in GDP in India vis-a-vis China




Source: FAO, World Bank & IMF.

Arable Land

119.49 mn ha

155.37 mn ha


645 mm

1083 mm

Fertilisers consumption

383.3 Kg/ha

209.4 Kg/ha

Pesticides consumption per ha

13.07 Kg/ha

0.36 Kg/ha


1,288.35 bn USD

534.21 bn USD

Table 2: Number of pesticides registered & their usage: India vs World.

S. No


No. of Regd. Pesticides

Use per ha (Kg/ha)

FAO STAT, June 2019 & 2021.





































  1. 10.  

















Since the green revolution the food production increased by >4 times from 82.02 million tonnes in 1960-61 to 323.55 million tonnes in 2022–23 (2nd AE, DES-DAC&FW, MoA&FW, 2023). During the same period our horticulture production too assumed all time high of 342.33 million tons. As a result, today India ranks first in the production of pulses, pearl millet, Jute, milk and fruits like mango, banana, papaya, lemon & lime and second in production of paddy, wheat, sugarcane, groundnut, rapeseed mustard, tomato, potato, cotton, etc (FAO, 2022; DARE - Annual Report 2021-22)

However, the food grains that are surplus for the present populations will not be able to sustain food requirements of 516 million tons at the rate of 60% increase in demand for the 1.66 billion people by 2050 (as per Normative Approach based on Calorie Requirement recommended by ICMR, NITI Aayog 2018), unless there is increase in food production. Thus, production must be increased by more than 50% of the present production. With no further scope of increasing arable land and with the near plateauing production of major crops with available technologies, Improving productivity is the only option left for India to achieve growth in agriculture sector as arable land is shrinking”remarked by Prof. Ramesh Chand, Farm Economist, NITI Aayog (Mint, 2022).

Globally, where does India rank in terms of crop production and productivity viz-a-viz other advanced countries?

Productivity of the Top Producers of Major Food & Commercial crops:


Note: Crop data is for the year 2020-21. Russia numbers for winter season wheat. Major oilseeds including soybean, sunflower, peanut, cottonseed and rapeseed/mustard.

From the above figure, it is apparent that amongst the top 5 highest producers of major crops during 2022, the productivity of India was the lowest. Among the highest producers (Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, South Africa, and USA), China had the highest yield (Kg/ha) of most of the major food and commercial crops (USDA, 2022).

The gap in crop production and productivity between India and advanced nations shows that this sector has great potential that needs to be realized. Deployment of advanced technologies, internalisation of GM Crops, high-quality seeds, fertiliser, agrochemicals, and efficient management of natural resources. All of these factors can enhance crop production and productivity to the great extent, but not beyond 10% at a single go than that could be achieved through saving the crop losses due to pests and diseases of 20-40% (FAO/CABI, 2023). A conservative estimate of 20% crop losses due to pests and diseases at current agricultural growth rates translates to loss of ~66 million tonnes of food grains and ~69 million tonnes of horticultural production. These alarming losses, if saved, could feed an additional population 25-30 crore even without increasing production. While we do not advocate for the excessive use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, we must support their judicious application for optimal crop yields.

How is the Union Government transforming the Indian agriculture sector into a game-changer to benefit the farmers and ensure food security?

Our Hon'ble Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, gave a further boost to growth in agriculture through a series of advanced technologies and farmer welfare schemes and policies that will serve to sustain its growing population and making India to become the global food basket. The approval of GM Mustard and deregulation of genome editing for crop improvement are welcome and appreciative policy decisions that undoubtedly will enhance crop yields further.  Continued agricultural growth and global competitiveness awareness can help India achieve the Hon'ble Prime Minister's ambitious target of generating USD 5 trillion in GDP by 2027, with more than USD 1 trillion coming from agriculture.

To make Indian agriculture a game changer to economic prosperity and sustainable livelihood for farmers the plant protection industry needs enabling policies to overcome its inherent challenges thereby emerge as China +1, food, and agrochemical supplier.

The initiatives outlined in the Interim Budget 2024-2025, undoubtedly reflect the government's commitment to the agricultural sector and for the betterment of the farmers’ of our nation including the direct benefit transfer under which government has been transferring 6000 rupees per year to the farmers.

Furthermore, I welcome the announcement of allocating 1 lakh crore rupees towards innovation and Research & Development (R&D). This investment is crucial as Indian agriculture needs cutting-edge, in-house technology to enhance the livelihoods of farmers. In the long run, I propose a greater focus on the extension system, with increased coverage through public private partnerships. Your good self has quoted the slogan, “Jai Jawan Jai Kisan” by Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri Ji, “Jai Vigyan” added by Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ji and ‘Jai Anusandhan” added by our dynamic PM, Shri Narendra Modi Ji and this step of establishing the corpus of 1 lakh crore rupees is totally aligned with the government’s focus on promoting in house research and development. 

Could you elaborate on the challenges being faced by the Plant Protection Industries impeding its optimum potential?

Challenges faced by Plant Protection Industries:

  • Inordinate delay in issuing the Registration Certificate of New Chemistry:As per the Insecticides Act, 1968, the registration of new pesticide should be granted within a period of one year, further extendable, by 6 months. Rarely, registration in the true sense is granted within the stipulated time. Usually, it takes 3-7 years for issue of the registration certificate from the time of submission.
  • Lack of awareness among the farmers about illicit pesticides business: According to a recent report (Kumar & Rawat, 2021), almost a fourth of the total Indian pesticide market is accounted for by the spurious or sub-standard products. Government and industry jointly should promote awareness aggressively among the farmers about the spurious/fake agrochemical products, use of which are harmful to environment and human health, ineffective in pest management, results in poor yield and development of pest resistance.
  • Illicit trade of spurious formulations of Biostimulants/ Biologicals: The Karnataka Government’s reports of analysis of 250 so called bio-products (bio-stimulants, bio-pesticides) from February 2020 to May 2020 showed all of them were laced with cocktail of up to 12 chemical pesticides (DAO, 2020). It is surprising to note that some of these samples even contained pesticides that are not registered in the country e.g., Nitenpyram, Pyridaben etc. Nitenpyram has been identified as one of the frequently detected pesticides in grapes (Sandip et al., 2023) in the past four years, which mainly appeared from spurious formulations. Fake products not only affect farmers’ income and profitability deleteriously but also tarnish the brand names and the National image which in turn, can also impact MNC investment in India.
  • Unscrupulous activities by unethical players:Responsible industries promote safe and judicious use of crop protection chemicals, to boost crop production, productivity, and quality. The four national associations—CLI, ACFI, CCFI, and PMFAI do not have more than 300 members. CIB&RC registered 9,433 pesticide manufacturers in August 2023. Despite CIB&RC public notices in 2017, 2019, 2021 and 2023 only 2,333 companies provided KYC details (DPPQS, 2023). Based on the above data, 7,100 suspected offenders who didn’t provide KYC continued their illegal trade. As per CIB&RC’s latest public notice, 6,420 accounts of manufacturers who didn’t provide KYC despite repeated notice, were frozen and another 90 accounts are awaiting the final decision (File No.19-38/2023-CIR-I dated 24th July 2023). As per the notice the authorities must execute the orders and revoke the registration of all the defaulters.
  • Deterrent for illicit traders:Strict penalties must be imposed by the authorities on illegal traders and manufacturers of duplicate pesticides, which not only endanger farmers' health but also defraud gullible farmers of their hard-earned money. This is besides causing huge losses to government exchequers through evasion of custom duty and mandatory GST bills worth millions of rupees. Unscrupulous manufacturers who violate requirements under the Insecticide Act/GST Acts should be charged with criminal conspiracy and have their registration certificates/ licenses revoked.
  • Need for effective mechanisms for quality control & sampling:The Rajasthan sampling and analysis mechanism, should be replicated by all state governments. Rajasthan Agricultural Department has thoroughly categorised insecticides sold/supplied in the State by various manufacturers/ formulators into A, B, C, N, and Non-descriptive categories based on quality of samples - standard and/or misbranded, every year along with preceding five years data. This would enable Govt. to keep a track of their quality. The categorization is necessary to ensure effective sampling for internal quality control and to serve as an advisory to inspectors and manufacturers. Discriminatory quality assessment and sampling practices violate the Insecticide Act and promote the illegal sale of counterfeit and duplicate pesticides in the country.
  • Ignoring the governments’ adage for Ease of Doing Business:The government policy of ‘Ease of Doing Business’ is overlooked in the draft PMB. Rs 50 Lakh penalty and 5-year jail term regardless of the severity of the offence, committed intentionally or inadvertently, contradicts the above policy. At the Global Business Summit 2020 (The Economic Times, March 5, 2020), the Hon'ble PM said, “72 sections under the company's act have been shifted from criminal act to civil act, and fine to penalty with the reduced amount”. He advised bureaucrats to decriminalize minor offences (TOI April 7, 2022). While delivering the Union Budget Speech, the finance minister announced to decriminalize all commercial laws under point 82 on February 1, 2020. Progressive government policies if not followed in spirit, will promote corruption instead of benefiting genuine stakeholders.

Data protection is vital for players in this industry. How can increased spending on cutting-edge technology ensure that data is safe?

  • Data Protection- a need for introduction of advanced technology:How to save farmers' crops without new agrochemicals is a concern. More than 1,000 pesticides are registered worldwide (Table 2), but India, with one of the largest arable lands, has only 330 molecules (CIB&RC, 2023). Lack of regulatory data protection for agrochemicals and their formulations in India may be one of several factors why the new technologies are not able to be introduced in the country. Developing countries like India cannot afford to manufacture new chemistries, so they rely on MNCs who invest over ₹2,000 Crore in discovering one new molecule and incur additional costs of ₹30-50 Cr for data generation and registration in India by self or Indian company who register the product 1st time in the country.

The Secretary, Department of Chemicals & Petrochemicals, GoI, reported on 31 May 2007 that data protection is essential to attract new technologies in various sectors. Since India is a TRIPS signatory, it must comply with IPR requirements, including data protection under article 39.3. USA, EU, Canada, Japan, and China protect data for 6-10 years. In addition, the 46th Standing Committee on Agriculture (2008-2009) on the Pesticides Management Bill 2008 recommended 5 years of data protection for agrochemical stewardship. To attract MNCs to invest in India, the government must align Indian laws with global regulatory norms to bring new and advanced technology in the country to save the crops against epidemics of new pest which might have inherent resistance to existing pesticides.

Research is integral aspect of the agriculture sector. When it comes to research where does India lack and needs more focus on?

  • Exempt/Reduce GST on Agrochemicals: To ensure successful crop production, agrochemicals should be exempted from GST or reduced to a maximum of 5%, like chemical fertilizers (which currently attract 5% GST and approximately ₹2.5 lac crore in subsidies during FY 2022 and is expected to reach ₹3 lac crore in subsidies during FY 2023). By encouraging farmers to buy genuine crop protection chemicals at a reduced rate of GST from authorized dealers, it will not only help in doubling farmers’ income but also deter fake product trafficking.
  • Pesticides resistance and resurgence management:Resistance to pesticides causes failure to manage pests and diseases and an economic loss of over US$2 billion. The government should label pesticides with mode of action (MOA) groups to prevent farmers from using the same group-numbered pesticide consecutively marketed by different manufacturers by different trade names. Farmers often use pesticides with different trade names without knowing if they are chemically similar or have the same mode of action.
  • Less expenditure on Research in India vs developed nations: India’s Gross Expenditure on R&D (GERD) is 0.65% of GDP, one of the lowest in the world (NITI Aayog – India Innovation Index, 2021).  It is lower than the global average (1.8%) and BRICS countries Brazil (1.2%), Russia (1.1%), China (2%) and South Africa (0.8%). The US, Sweden, and Switzerland spend 2.9%, 3.2%, and 3.4% of their GDP on GERD, while Israel spends 4.5%. Unfortunately, the government has removed the 20% income tax rebate for expenditures on R&D by DST/DSIR recognized industry. To encourage the expansion of R&D activities in the country, the government should reinstate the earlier rebate provision.
  • Abrupt imposition of regulatory decisions without alternatives:The unilateral pesticide regulations, such as the ban on pesticides without proper alternatives (gazette notification S.O. 1512(E) dated 14 May 2020), enabling nationwide use of the same strain of biopesticide (DPPQS no. 24-01/2019-CIR.1 dated 28 April 2020), and the mandatory use of pesticides through PCOs (S.O. 2268(E) dated 6 July 2020), has proven counter-productive. The execution of such new regulations may not be possible without keeping adequate means and alternative competitive solutions.

In a digitally empowered era, using technology for dissemination of advanced technology is vital for the farmer’s growth. What is your opinion on this aspect? 

  • Lack of aggressiveness in dissemination of advance technologies among farmers: The benefits of new technologies like drones, IoT, AI, remote sensing, and precision agriculture are only reaching a fraction of Indian farmers, while most are unaware of them.  To reach 14 crore farmers in 6.5 lakh villages in the country alone is a Herculean task for government extension machinery. MOSPI, 2021, found that less than 3% of rural households received technical advice from government extension agencies (ATMA-1.5%, Kisan Call Centers-0.7%, ICAR-KVKs-0.5%, SAUs-0.2%). Most households got technical advice from progressive farmers (20.3%) and input dealers (19.1%), then radio, TV, etc. (8.2%). Advanced technology like Smart Phone Apps served only 0.8% as a source of technical advice. It's strange that farmers still need aggressive smartphone awareness in the age of digital India and the ICT revolution.  Thus, the government should partner with industries to leverage expertise in PPP mode to achieve the goal faster and support private sector by providing exemption in income tax. We have celebrated Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav on completing 75 years of our independence and will be celebrating Azadi Ka Amrit Kal till the Centenary of India’s independence. During this time, India envisions itself as a global economic superpower. I'd like to add that the path of this growth in the future will pass through villages, fields, and farmers. Farmer-friendly policies are essential for success on this journey. Following the Prime Minister's vision of ‘Ease of Doing Business’, ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas, Sabka Prayaas’, ‘Per drop more crop’ and synchronising our regulations with international laws, India can undoubtedly become the world's leading power. 


(Dr. R.G. Agarwal, is the Group Chairman of Dhanuka Group, & Family Charitable Trusts, based in Gurugram, Haryana. Under his dynamic stewardship, the Dhanuka Group grew to become a leading Agritech (Crop Protection chemicals) & Pharma Business House in the country, with interests in Crop Protection, Spray Technology, Pharmaceuticals, and taking new technologies like IT, IoT, Precision agriculture, Drones and increasing protection, quality yield, and farmer’s income.

He also pioneered DAESI (Diploma in Agricultural Extension Services for Agri-Input Dealers) in collaboration with MANAGE, Hyderabad,

Dr. Agarwal served as Chairman of the FICCI Crop Protection Committee, Chairman of the Crop Care Federation of India (Erstwhile Pesticides Association of India), Advisor, Agro Chem Federation of India, and Director, CLI.

In view of his very distinct contributions to famers welfare, and many social, religious activities for the benefit of society at large, Dr. Agarwal has been honoured with several coveted awards, namely, Forbes Award - 200 Best under A Billion Companies in Asia Pacific - 3 times, Life time achievement award by CHAI, FICCI and many more.)

Register Now to Attend NextGen Chemicals & Petrochemicals Summit 2024, 11-12 July 2024, Mumbai

Other Related stories