The Centre has asked officials to encourage pesticide companies to import formulations and produce necessary agro chem in the country. It has, therefore, relaxed some rules under ease of doing business while continuing with the compulsory registration of technology with the Central Insecticide Board (CIB).

“We have taken some decisions that will help improve the “Make in India” push, as any technology in operation for 20 years abroad should also be available in the country. However, importers of formulations have to register,” said PK Singh, chairman of the Registration Committee (RC) of the CIB.

For instance, in the 442 meeting of the RC, which was held last month but minutes were made public a few days ago, it has been decided that accelerated storage data could be considered for the grant of a provisional shelf-life.

Data protection concerns

“However, in such cases, the Certificate of Registration (CR) shall be issued with a validity of two years. Shelf life claim of up to two years, or as the case may be, (provisionally) be granted to the insecticides with the condition that the applicant is required to submit real-time/actual storage stability study data in the proposed construct and container of sale for a duration of minimum 30 months, within two-and-a-half years of the submission of the application for granting the registration, failing which the registration certificate shall stand invalid,” it said.

There has been a tussle between foreign companies and Indian firms, as many of the global firms do not bring in formulation due to fear of a breach of data privacy.

Besides, customs duty is another area that does not help in the import of new technology. CropLife India, an industry body of crop science companies, last year urged the government to retain a uniform basic customs duty of 10 per cent for both technical raw materials and formulations.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture has already rejected the pesticide industry’s demand for data protection. In its 36th Report on The Pesticide Management Bill, 2020, the Standing Committee on the controversial issue of Protection for Regulatory Data (PRD) appreciated “the fact that no provision” of data protection for the introduction of new molecules or products has been consciously incorporated into the Pesticide Management Bill, 2020, by the government as it will not only protect the domestic industry, which primarily relies on the production of “generic pesticides,” but also the farmers, who will be benefited by the availability of cheaper pesticides.

New molecules

It said, “the Committee also believes that India has a very large and growing market for agro chem and with huge arable land, it will be able to attract the introduction of new molecules from foreign as well as domestic companies even without provision for any data protection.”

But experts said without PRD, no new molecule will come unless data is protected, even for off-patented pesticides. The technical registration of molecules in India is 295, whereas it is 689 in China. Any off-patented molecule, if brought to India after 20 years of its patent, has to go through trials in the country for which someone has to invest, and unless his investment is protected at least for five years, no one will bring such products, experts said.

However, the government has decided to encourage companies to bring in new technology that will benefit farmers, officials said.