Globally, the US dominates agrochemical production, with a market value of $36.42 billion in 2023. In contrast, India’s agrochemical market, projected to reach $18.1 billion by 2025, reflects a pressing need for increased R&D, product registrations, and IPR. Elevating these factors is crucial to propelling India into a leading position as an agrochemical exporter.

Shifting from Generic to Novel Molecules 

Traditionally, India’s focus on manufacturing generic agrochemicals has centered on meeting immediate demand, capturing a dominant 70 per cent market share globally. Their attractiveness lies in their affordability, unlike their imported or patented counterparts. However, the industry’s recent paradigm shift recognizes the long-term benefits of investing in R&D for patented agrochemical molecules. This shift is crucial for ensuring sustained growth and positioning India as a hub for innovation in agrochemicals.

As the world’s second-largest producer of agri-commodities, India faces an annual loss of ₹1.48-lakh crore due to pests, weeds, and fungal diseases. To combat this, a focus on R&D is indispensable to developing novel agrochemical molecules that offer enhanced pest control and modern weed management practices, ultimately boosting agricultural output.

Industry Challenges and Incentives for R&D 

Despite the government’s goal of self-sufficiency in agrochemical R&D, funding remains a significant hurdle, particularly for domestic firms. Multinational corporations, with better access to funds, have an advantage in marketing innovative products globally. Additionally, the protracted testing process across crops, animals, and humans poses a challenge, delaying the introduction of new products to the market.

Navigating the unknown in agrochemical R&D presents challenges, from unpredictable outcomes to unforeseen ecological impacts. Domestic firms have invested over ₹3,000 crore, but these investments must increase substantially to meet the rising demand. As the world aims to feed an estimated 9.7 billion people by 2050, a 50 per cent increase in productivity is imperative. This necessitates not only new seed varieties but also innovative crop protection products, achievable through the development of novel agrochemical molecules.

The Path Forward

India, currently ranking second in agrochemical exports with $5.5 billion in 2022, surpassing the US at $5.4 billion, stands at the threshold of a transformative R&D journey in agrochemicals. With stable domestic demand and a robust export market, the future is promising for India to emerge as a global leader in agrochemical innovation.

In conclusion, as India strives to maximize its potential in the agrochemical landscape, a strategic shift towards novel molecules and intensified R&D efforts are imperative. This evolution not only promises economic benefits but also ensures sustainable agriculture practices, aligning with global demands and challenges. The trajectory is set, and India’s agrochemical sector is poised for a groundbreaking transformation through innovation and research.

(The writer is the Founder Director of Safex Chemicals)