India’s proposed pesticide bill could discourage fresh investments into agro-chemical business, says CropLife

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IAC photo by Parivartan Sharma

A proposed pesticides bill that will replace regulations adopted nearly five decades ago needs more discussion, as some of the provisions are not progressive and would discourage fresh investments in India’s agro-chemical business, a top industry official told Ritwik Sinha in an interview.

Asitava Sen, chief executive officer of CorpLife India, an association of leading global and domestic pesticide manufacturers in the country, told indoasiancommodities.com that the government should refer the Pesticides Management Bill, 2020 (PMB) to a parliamentary select committee for a more extensive debate before it is put to vote in the lower house of parliament.

Asitava Sen, Chief Executive Officer, CorpLife India

“The timing of the bill is right. The government is bringing a new bill after 50 years at a time when there is a fresh push to the agriculture sector. But there are several provisions in this bill which do not make it a radically different law from the existing Insecticides Act adopted in early 1970’s,” Sen said. 

Drafted in 2017, the PMB was introduced in the Rajya Sabha in March this year and is expected to get the parliamentary nod in the forthcoming monsoon session of parliament.

The new bill proposes a price control mechanism for agro-chemical products, which according to Sen could well be counter-productive as it would impact investments in the sector.

See Asitava Sen’s interview on our YouTube channel here

“Price regulation could be done in exceptional situations, but can’t be a rule for normal times. At a time when global majors across the business spectrum are looking to shift their base from China, bringing in a compulsory price control mechanism in the fast growing agro-chemical  business would not encourage global majors in this line of business,” he emphasised.

According to Sen India, as the fourth-largest producer of pesticides and a leading exporter, is already a major agro-chemical manufacturing country in the world and a progressive set of laws at this stage would only further consolidate its global positioning.

Strong reservations

“If we look at the domestic usage pattern of pesticides, India has miles to go. The per hectare agro-chemical usage in India is a little less than 400 gm, which is around 13 kg in China and 12 kg in Japan. China, which has land under cultivation comparable to India, has an agriculture sector which is three times bigger. There, farmers have access to solutions based on over 1,000 active ingredients as against 275 in our case,” Sen pointed out, while emphasising that new law must pave the way for more innovation, better testing standards and introduction of new products in the market.         

Sen also expressed his strong reservations on the proposal for fresh re-registration of existing products within two years of enactment of the new law saying it will unnecessarily create confusion in the marketplace.

“It will not be in the interest of both farmers and the manufacturers. The existing products have been cleared by the Central Insecticide Board in the past. What purpose this fresh re-registration drive will serve is not clear,” he said, adding that in developed countries like the United States there is a simple validity system for 15 years after the product has been registered.

Responding to a recent notification by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare to ban 27 molecules, Sen said the move was a major setback for the industry.

“The order has certain factual errors, inconsistencies and incomplete claims; as per the data submitted by our member companies and other original registrants for some of these molecules. We emphasise that the process of review should be science-based and consultative.”

CropLife India, affiliated to the apex international body of agro-chemical manufacturers CropLife that operate in 91 countries represents interests of 15 R&D-based crop science firms in the country.

Its members include leading names in the business such as Bayer, Syngenta, Rallis India, BASF, Sumitomo Chemical, Indofil, etc.  

Ritwik Sinha is a Delhi-based business journalist and has covered key policy ministries and has been associated with various television platforms. He is also the founding editor of Logistics Times.

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