The agri-inputs industry  has expressed concern over Maharashtra government’s move to compensate farmers for the loss caused due to sale of adulterated, non-standard or misbranded seeds, fertilizers and insecticides in the State.

To facilitate this, the State plans to amend the Insecticides Act, 1968, the Seeds Act, 1966, the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, and Maharashtra Prevention of Dangerous Activities of Slumlords, Bootleggers, Drug-offenders, Dangerous Persons, Video Pirates and  Sand Smugglers engaged in Black Marketing of Essential Commodities Act, 1981.

The agri-inputs industry — comprising seed manufactures, pesticide makers, crop protection and formulation manufacturers — is, in particular, worried over clubbing of the four sectors with dangerous persons, drug offenders and slum lords.

Non-bailable clause

Anil Kakkar, Vice-Chairman of CropLife India, told businessline in an online interaction that a complaint from a farmer on problems with pesticide or seed or insecticide could land up corporates in trouble.

Any person nominated as the company’s representative could be arrested by police on a complaint lodged by a farmer and the clause under which the arrest is made is non-bailable. 

“This will also affect our recruitment process. No one will be ready to join our companies and be ready to be made as the representative in view of this,” said KC Ravi, CropLife India Chairman.   

A representation made by the four sectors to the Secretary, Maharashtra Legislature Secretariat, stated that the agri-inputs industry was further worried over the proposal to introduce a new State Legislation namely “Maharashtra Payment of Compensation to Farmers (for loss caused due to adulterated, non-standard or misbranded seeds, fertilizers or insecticides) Act, 2023...”

Against criminalisation

The proposed amendments “are disproportionately harsh, besides being ambiguous and contrary to law”, the sectors said in the representation. It would lead to “undue harassment” to all genuine manufacturers, marketers, distributors and dealers of seeds, fertilizers and insecticides. 

This would result in illegal and fly-by-night manufacturers and sellers thriving and make it “virtually impossible” for genuine stakeholders to conduct business in Maharashtra. Thereby, farmers in the State would be deprived from getting quality pesticides, they said.

Parikshit Mundhra, Chairman of Agro Chem Federation of India, said per se, the four sectors were against criminalisation since the Ministry of Agriculture is making efforts to decriminalise non-compliance of such acts as part of its “ease of doing business” policy.

Highly regulated sectors

“It will lead to complications for all, including employees. At least 60-70 per cent of the companies in these sectors are listed on stock exchanges. Subjecting such companies is a matter of concern,” he said.  

Pradip Dave, Pesticides Manufacturers & Formulators Association of India (PMFAI) President, said the four sectors are considering stopping supplies to distributors and traders from December 6 if the State does not respond to their pleas.

Deepak Shah, Chairman, Crop Care Federation of India, said while the Centre is trying to decriminalise minor offences, Maharashtra was trying to put people behind bars for such offences. 

Kakker said all the four sectors were highly regulated by the Union and State Governments. “These proposed provisions are unreasonable as the agri inputs industry had a foolproof mechanism to check quality,” he said.

“Safety and quality in all aspects are ensured. We are the second-largest manufacturers after China and our products are exported to over 100 countries. The Centre told Parliament that among the number of samples drawn to test the quality of our products only 2. per cent don’t meet standards,” the CropLife Vice-Chairman said.

Dealers have their way?

The industry is not happy with this (2.3% of products not meeting standards), though this was far better than many developed countries. “We are trying to reduce it as much as possible,” Kakkar said.

Dave said in case of any problem with the agri inputs, farmers have the Consumer Protection Act provisions to lodge a complaint.

Shah said the provisions have an impact on dealers and traders. “But they shut over 70,000 shops in the State for three days. The State government then assured that the proposals will not affect them,” he said.

Mundhra said they have approached the Centre as well but they have not got any response yet. 

The representatives of all these sectors said they had met the concerned minister and had sent their representation. But there has been no assurance yet for them that the proposals will not affect the agri inputs industry.