‘The country loses crops worth Rs 1,40,000 crore annually to pests & diseases’
According to data compiled by the New Delhi-based Agrochemicals Policy Group (APG), spurious or substandard pesticides worth Rs 1,400 crore were sold in India in 2009, as compared with Rs 1,200 crore in 2008.
Assuming a cost-benefit ratio of 1:5 for pesticide use, the harm to crops and farmers would be Rs 7,000 crore in 2009.
Spurious pesticides are inferior formulations which fail to kill pests and also inflict damage on crops. Poor and marginal farmers unwittingly fall prey to such cheap products and end up having low or no produce. People have been made aware of this by the large number of farmers who committed suicide after crippling crop losses due to the use of costly but ineffectual pesticides. But, the culprits aren’t held to account, said S Kumarasamy, spokesperson of APG.
“What is astonishing is that the authorities have not taken due notice of this and have allowed this nefarious business to thrive and expand. The spurious pesticides have a multiplier affect on crop losses,” Kumarasamy added.
In addition to the output loss, their investment (usually with borrowed money) in costly plant protection chemicals is also lost. The majority of farmers in the ‘suicide zone’ of Maharashtra have been victims of this at the hands of a few, says APG.
Since the major spurious insecticide manufacturing centres are known to be in western Uttar Pradesh, coastal Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and western Maharashtra, weeding these out should not be difficult. Provided, state administrations and the law enforcement agencies are willing to work in tandem. Gradually, Bihar, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh have also joined this nefarious activity, says APG.
These manufacturers also copy the labels of popular pesticides, harming not only the farmers but also the reputation, sales and profitability of genuine manufacturers.
Therefore, APG has urged the government to bring pesticide manufacturing and sales under a ‘Good Manufacturing Practices’ code, implement existing law and penalise the culprits severely.
According to a study, India, with annual sales of $1 billion (Rs 4,600 crore), accounts for only 3 per cent of the global market for pesticides. Only 20 per cent of the land area gets proper protection. ABG estimates the country loses crops worth Rs 140,000 crore annually to pests, diseases and weeds.