Agrochem’s Biggest Challenge: Overcoming Farmers’ Reluctance to the Right Usage

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  • Date:- 08 Nov, 2019

'Agrochem’s Biggest Challenge: Overcoming Farmers’ Reluctance to the Right Usage'

Every industry has a set of challenges and agrochemical industry is no exception.

On the face of it, main points are

1. Poor uptake of farm input materials

2. Lack of awareness and knowledge about them

3. No big innovation in the country

4. Low profile investment in R&D in the sector

5. Markets flooded with spurious materials.

Some may also count the advent of GM products and meeting strict regulatory needs as the sticking point. As we enter a new era of governance few months back, it is necessary to draw the attention of the policymakers to the issues that are dragging us back and impeding our momentum.

Farmers resistant to change

However, as a professional who works with the people in the grassroots, we see a problem at a deeper level – the reluctance of farmers in adopting anything that counters their traditional understanding of farming to an extent. They are somewhat not open to anything new that they are not sure about, even if it means that they get lower price for their crops when not using proper or latest agrochemical. Many times they don’t use the right product at right quantity and time. We can understand their concern with the crops volume as they struggle against the volatile market prices but their reluctance to change is harming the prospect more than the prices. Hence, Insecticides (India) Limited and many companies have been doing the efforts of training of the farmers independently and along with the government, but there is still a long way to go.

Over reliance on Generic Agrochemicals

Insecticides dominate the crop protection industry in India with about 60 per cent market share while other segments such as herbicides, fungicides, and other elements sufficient distribution such as micronutrients, plant growth regulators (PGR), and bio-stimulants hold 16 per cent, 18 per cent and 3 percent of the market, respectively. A bulk of domestic consumption of insecticides and herbicides is generic in nature and this demand is likely to grow northward in future, mainly due to the price difference with the branded ones. Generic agrochemicals are popular among farmer who is comfortable using these tried, off-patented agrochemicals – in absence of new, patented products in the market, they grow dependent on these generic products. Now with patented new solutions available it is hard to convert them and this conversion takes a long time and investment. More over the patented products marketed by MNCs are out of the reach of the common farmers. So the solution could be affordable only when these products are made in India. IIL has also worked to make the products in India, which were imported earlier and provided the same to farmers within their reach.

At IIL, we are also continuously bringing in latest technology products from international market and introduce in the market. Insecticides (India) Limited has entered into partnerships and tie-ups with international companies.

R&D investment is a sticking point

R&D is crucial for developing new molecules and improves the existing products. But the cost is high. Apart from the upfront cost of setting up a research facility, tracking right resources and running the facility calls for sustained investment while the return is usually slow. That makes people scary about investing in in-house R&D as well as any other similar project. What they do not realise is that in order to improve the products and to reduce their prices, R&D is key, for it paves the way to innovation. In this regard, Insecticides (India) has been a pioneer of sorts and set up four different types of R&D centres with different themes. This includes backward integration, process development and improvement, formulation development and new product invention. New product invention centre has been set up in joint venture with OAT Agrio Co. of Japan is one of its kind in India.

Poor supply chain management and the problem of counterfeit products

We need more efficient distribution systems to let more farmers access these products. Problems of supply chain inefficiencies and inadequate infrastructure have plagued the agrochemical industry which results in post-harvest losses. The lack of efficient distribution system also makes it difficult for the agrochemical companies to reach the farmers to promote their products and educate them about their usage and benefits. Besides, generic and popular branded products are prone to counterfeiting. These sub-standard products not only prove to be ineffective but also harm the crops at many times. They hurt the laboriously-built reputation of the agrochemical companies. Poor supply chain and lack of awareness of farmer facilitate the entry of counterfeit products, especially in remote areas.