Agri Business

Labour shortage, good rains to spur herbicide usage this year

Vishwanath Kulkarni Bengaluru | Updated on June 17, 2020

Farmers are seen depending more on chemicals such as glyphosate and pretilachlor to reduce their cultivation costs and protect their yields amidst labour shortage   -  humonia

A shortage of migrant farm labour triggered by the Covid crisis and projected good monsoon in the season ahead are set to trigger the increased use of herbicides by the farmers across the country.

Agrochemical makers such as Bayer and Insecticides India Ltd see a spurt in sales of herbicides as farmers are seen depending more on chemicals such as glyphosate and pretilachlor to reduce their cultivation costs amidst labour shortage and protect their yields.

“The herbicide market has been good and there is a huge demand. Whenever there are more rains, the demand for herbicide goes up. This year, the pre-monsoon showers have been good and the monsoon is also predicted to be good,” said Rajesh Aggarwal, Managing Director of Insecticides (India) Ltd, which earns about 30 per cent of its revenues from herbicides.

The farm labour shortage triggered by Covid crisis has created more problems for farmers in States such as Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat and Maharashtra, who depend on migrant labourers from the eastern parts of the country. Also, with the manpower becoming more expensive by the day, farmers have to depend on the use of chemicals, Agarwal added.

‘Herbicide year’

“This is going to be a herbicide year for India,” said Simon Weibusch, Chief Operating Officer of Bayer India Crop Science division. India has traditionally been an insecticide market, while globally the herbicide market is larger. “There is a good interest for herbicides by the trade,” Weibush said, adding it is too early to quantify the demand.

The farm labour shortage has become prevalent during Covid triggering a shift in cropping patterns such as direct seeding in rice in states such as Punjab and Haryana.

Such a trend is also driving the demand for herbicides, Weibusch said. Also, the increased interest in herbicide tolerant technologies is stemming from the higher labour cost for weeding, he said.

Asitava Sen, Chief Executive Officer, CropLife India, a body of agrochemical makers, said the domestic crop protection market in India is estimated to be ₹21,000 crore during 2019, a growth of 8.9 per cent over 2018 estimates.

“Of this, the herbicide market is ₹4,500 crore; with a 12.3 per cent growth over 2018 estimates. Herbicides have emerged as the second largest segment after insecticides, and registered the highest growth among the three main segments,” Sen said.

“We expect an important role for herbicides in mitigating the challenges of crop losses. As the kharif season commences, the government should ensure progressive and supportive science-based regulatory environment and quicker registration process to make a wider choice of quality crop protection products available to the farmers,” Sen added.

Dhanuka Agritech, which launched crop specific herbicides for cotton and soyabean recently, also sees huge opportunity in this segment as farmers are using more chemicals to protect their yields from weeds, the company told investors in a recent post earnings call. Herbicides contribute around 31 per cent of Dhanuka’s revenues.

Published on June 17, 2020

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