by Rajesh Aggarwal
Managing Director, Insecticides India Limited
According to the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security, the term food security means all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life. If data are to be believed, despite being an agrarian country, India is yet to achieve food security for its people. India ranks 71st, along with Guatemala, in the Global Food Security Index 2020 while in the Global Hunger Index 2020, it ranks 94th out of 117 countries, lagging behind Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal.
One of the reasons for this is that Indian agriculture is heavily dependent on monsoon – over 50 per cent of agrarian land is rain-fed and is affected to a great extent by unpredictable weather and erratic monsoon. Besides, decline in soil fertility, insect and disease infestations, and small average farm sizes are some of the challenges that affect the productivity of Indian farmlands. Insecticides, fungicides and herbicides remain the most important ones as production of food crops is threatened by 30,000 species of weeds, 3,000 species of worms and 10,000 species of plant-eating insects. This makes the role of judicious use of agro chemicals pivotal. Education and awareness about them are the biggest challenge and government and well as the private players are working hard in this direction.
According to FICCI, India loses about 20 per cent of crops to pests, weeds and diseases and the locust attack last year, the worst in past three decades, has reportedly destroyed nearly 1.7 hectares of farmland in Rajasthan and Gujarat.
Since land is a finite natural resource, increasing agricultural production to feed a growing number of Indians will need help from agrochemicals, among other things as the pressure to increase productivity on the reducing land is growing. Interestingly, the per hectare consumption in India, the top exporter of agrochemical products, is only 0.29 kg/ha as compared to 1.30 kg/ha in Pakistan, 13.06 kg/ha in China, and 11.85 kg/ha in Japan. Contrary to what many believe, agrochemicals are not the reason for declining soil fertility, cancer or environmental pollution, lack of knowledge among farmers on the type and amount of product needed for that crop and soil cause the imbalance. Realising the importance of such knowledge, regular farmer education camps by government and private bodies are held. Agrochemicals are important for sustaining growth of plants and regaining the fertility of soil, without affecting the environment, and will be the most important factor as India gears up to make nearly 1.52 billion people food-secure by 2036.
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