Even as India attempts to reduce its dependence on Chinese imports by promoting self reliance across manufacturing sectors, it may be providing China an opportunity to dominate the global generic pesticide market by deciding to ban the production of 27 pesticides, a domestic industry lobby group alleges. The ban will shrink India's pesticide export capability by more than 50 per cent and hand over a market worth Rs 12,000 crore to our Chinese competitors. It will defeat the very purpose of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's call for Atmanirbhar Bharat," says K N Singh, Vice President Registration, Gharda Chemicals.
The Department of Agriculture Cooperation and Farmers Welfare (DAC&FW), Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare (MoA&FW), has meanwhile clarified on the matter, saying a committee was formed under Anupam Varma to review 66 pesticides, which have been banned. It said these pesticides had been severely restricted in other countries of the world too. The department said while registering a pesticide in India, data generated in other countries and accepted globally was also considered.
The Agriculture Ministry had on May 14 issued a draft notification announcing the government's intention to ban 27 pesticides that were found to be harmful for humans and animals by an official committee. There is a 45-day window for the stakeholders to present their views on the draft notification before it gets finalised. Pesticides Manufacturers & Formulators Association of India (PMFAI), the body that is opposing the ministry move, said the committee that recommended the ban had not considered their views and wanted an enquiry by a high-powered government-appointed scientific committee to look at its conclusions.
"All the 27 molecules have been registered in India by regulatory authority CIB&RC, meeting all scientific evaluations for safety and efficacy, backed up by scientific data. These generic pesticides are used in India since 1970 without any risk or adverse impact to humans, animals and environment, and includes Malathion that was extensively used by the government during the recent locust attack," says Pradip Dave, President PMFAI and Chairman Aimco Pesticides Ltd.
The Department of Agriculture Cooperation and Farmers Welfare said that of these 66 pesticides, the recommendations were made by the expert committee in December 2015 to submit certain data on efficacy and/or safety of 27 pesticides within the stipulated time frame by the pesticide industry. The report was also deliberated by the Registration Committee (Statutory body for registration of Insecticides) and sought certain more studies to judge the safety and efficacy of the 27 pesticides. The MoA&FW said the pesticide industry had been provided sufficient time for submission of the required scientific studies and data but due to non submission of complete requisite scientific studies and data for the 27 pesticides, the concerns on safety and efficacy could not be judged, the department clarified.
According to Dave, the review process of Dr. Anupam Varma Committee (which recommended the ban) was arbitrary. "The committee, formed in July 2013, was initially mandated to examine continued use of three neon icotinoids but within a month, the mandate was expanded to 66 generic insecticides that are banned, restricted or withdrawn in some other countries, but are used in India. This disregards FAO's advice that climate, crop grown, pests and diseases must guide the choice of pesticides for every country. In its final report, submitted to the Government of India in December 2015, the committee recommended a ban on 18 pesticides and suggested review of 27 generic insecticides after completion of studies. We conducted recommended studies suggested by the Registration Committee and submitted the report in 2019, explicitly stating that we are ready to conduct further studies, if directed. However, on May 14, 2020, the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers' Welfare issued a draft ban on these 27 pesticides," Dave adds.
The association also complains that implementing the ban will increase the input cost of farmers and force India to stop supplying to the global market. It will also break the backbone of Indian generic pesticide industry, including several MSMEs.
"The pesticides under the ambit of the proposed ban produce more than 130 formulations used by the farmers for crop protection. This ban will increase farm input cost of farmers who are affected by lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19 and locust, apart from various other threats to their crops. These pesticides account for 40 per cent of the domestic market and the alternative available to the farmers will be branded, readymade and expensive ones produced by the MNCs," industry veteran Singh of Gharda Chemicals says. The generic pesticide formulations, proposed to be banned, cost between Rs 350-450 per litre, while the alternatives imported will cost in the range of Rs 1,200-2,000 per litre, the industry points out.The Department of Agriculture Cooperation and Farmers Welfare said the government had published the draft notification to seek objections and suggestions from all the stakeholders, and that they were giving feedbacks via videoconference. "Moreover, the manufacturing for export purpose only has also been allowed," it clarified.