Mumbai: India’s fight against increasing food prices and dwindling supplies often overlooks a crucial bottleneck: the country’s poor crop protection record.
Poor reach: A farmer spraying pesticide in a field in Naxalbari, 35km from Siliguri. Average pesticide use in India is the lowest in the world at 0.48kg per ha due to high costs and poor awareness among farmers.
India loses around 20% of its potential food crop produce every year, mainly because of a lack of safeguards. The loss last year was an estimated Rs1.4 trillion.
Only 20% of the 143 billion ha of agriculture land is covered under crop protection programmes, according to data compiled by industry lobbies the Agrochemicals Promotion Group (APG) and the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham). Average pesticide consumption in India is the lowest in the world at 0.48kg per ha against 10.7kg in Japan and 4.5kg in the US, mainly because of poor awareness among farmers and high cost of pesticides and other preservation technologies.
“We have now appealed to the government that prevention of crop losses due to pests is the fastest way to ensure national food security,” said APG chairman S. Kumarasamy.
Bottlenecks such as limited storage facilities and poor roads are also key contributors to the huge food crop loss, he added.
India produced Rs7 trillion worth of food crops last year, as per Assocham-APG data.
The industry lobbies have suggested a national campaign to prevent crop losses caused by pests, diseases and weeds, as well as educating farm officers on appropriate use of crop protection measures. It has also recommended removing the high excise duty on agrochemicals and related sectors to make pesticides and other crop protection technologies affordable to small farmers.
An official at the department of agriculture and cooperation said the government is studying the suggestions on priority, and “some of them are expected to be implemented soon”.
The National Food Security Mission, launched by the Centre last year aimed at a 4% growth in the farm sector, but had no clear indication on expanding the country’s crop protection programme.
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