The plantation sector feels that it should be exempted from the new norms on glyhposate use. The Agriculture Ministry, in a notification early this week, said the use of glyphosate is hereby restricted and no person shall use glyphosate except pest control operators (PCOs).

Planters say getting a professional to spray the herbicide would be an expensive proposition in the vast and remote plantation areas.

Jeffry Rebello, President, United Planters’ Association of South India (UPASI) said the planters’ body would approach the Commerce Ministry seeking an exemption for the plantation sector for application of glyphosate through the PCOs.

Glyphosate is used in tea plantations, and also in coffee estates and rubber plantations for ground application to control the weeds.

“Due to the location of plantations in the rural areas and the sheer size, we had written to the Ministry that it is impractical and very expensive, if only PCOs have to come and spray the herbicide. Moreover, there is no alternative to glyphosate for weed management in plantations. If weeds are not controlled, the fertiliser use efficiency drops. The country is already facing a huge shortage in fertilisers,” Shreedharan Chandran, Vice-President, UPASI, and a tea planter.

UPASI had earlier highlighted to the Agriculture Ministry that the PCOs are available mostly in the cities requiring private pest control activities for house hold purposes or fumigation of exported commodities. It had also highlighted that the existing total number of licensed PCOs in India are in far less in numbers than the actual requirement to serve the tea plantations spread over 5.66 lakh hectares.

N Lakshmanan, a tea planter, said to employ a PCO at a mid-size plantation will be expensive and add up to the costs. Besides, it may lead to unnecessary harassment.

Glyphosate is registered in India to be used in tea estates for almost last four decades. The tea gardens are mostly monitored by organised institutions and have their own group of well-trained spraying squads and with decades of experience in herbicide application on the weeds/ground in typical tea eco systems or insecticides-acaricides-fungicides application onto the tea plants under direct supervision of responsible qualified assistant gardens managers, UPASI had said.