Agrochemicals were first introduced in India during the Green Revolution in 1960s to facilitate farmers’ efforts to address agricultural challenges, including crop loss due to pests and diseases, soil fertility issues, and the need to increase crop yields. They have acted as stepping stones in making India go from being impoverished to a self-sufficient nation that now produces surplus. According to the recently tabled Economic Survey 2022-23, the total food grain production reached a record high in 2021-22, with 315.7 million tonnes.
Agrochemicals hence played an instrumental role in driving sustained growth in the crop production sector. Their use empowers farmers with a way to decimate pests to maintain crop health and improve soil fertility which results in increased agricultural output. At the same time, they enable farmers to produce crops with more consistent quality and quantity.
As agrochemicals found their way into farmers’ lives, making them easier, misunderstandings about them have also entrenched people’s minds which severely impacts farmers’ decisions in reaping the maximum advantages of these products. The misinterpretations are doing harm to the entire society by developing negative perceptions which restrict the use of produces as well. It’s imperative for India to debunk myths by spreading the correct information regarding these products that can help produce desired results while pushing the nation’s efforts towards India in 2047.
Indian farmers use excessive agrochemicals
Indian farmers from time to time have been accused of excessive usage of agrochemicals which is nothing but a myth based action. It is also commonly assumed that crops from developed nations are better as they use less pesticides. If we compare domestic agrochemical consumption with other nations, we find that the USA, China, Japan, France, Spain, Italy and Germany use a greater quantity of pesticides than India. For instance, per hectare pesticide consumption in Germany (3.7kg/h), France (3.7kg/h), UK (2.8kg/h) and Japan (10.9kg/h) is much higher than India (0.38kg/h).
India today holds 2nd position in agricultural production in the world with China in the lead, and US and Brazil are following us. The truth behind China’s leading position is consumption of pesticides which is 43.6 times more than India, as per FAO. The US, which is on our tail in agri production, uses 8.3 times more pesticides and Brazil which is at the 4th position uses 20 times more agrochemicals than India on per hectare basis. In fact, in around 70% of the countries, which were studied, more agrochemicals are used than India per hectare.
Furthermore, according to a recent report by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, the consumption of agrochemicals has decreased by 5.58% in India in 2021-22 as compared to the previous year. Utilization is lower by 4.89% when compared to the average amount of agrochemicals consumed during the previous four years.
Excessive residue in crops
Another prevalent belief is Indian crops have unhealthy amounts of pesticide residue. Such rumours continue to float despite 52.7% of India’s agricultural export being imported by the US that has strict quality standards.
Apart from that, until 2018, annual studies conducted by All India Network Project on Pesticide Residue, show that 98% of the country’s agricultural products don’t have inappropriate levels of pesticide residue and don’t surpass the Maximum Residual Limit (MRL).
Furthermore, the overall annual growth rate of pesticide consumption in India is -0.44% (according to reports published by the Asian Journal of Agricultural Extension, Economics & Sociology in July 2022), and it has only been declining over the years because of new chemistries. These agrochemicals are watchful of the ecology and are required in low dosage.
As an informed citizen, armed with the above facts, we must inform others as well. We must protect the integrity of Indian farmers who toil 365 days a year to feed the nation. Additionally, we must encourage the farmers to harness the maximum of their land’s potential, speeding our journey towards becoming the biggest economy in the world. It is a bonus that the same will help India improve its own hunger index and aid WHO achieve its SDG-Goal-2 of hunger free world by 2030.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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