Rice Critical to India’s $2 Billion Crop Protection Products Market
Rice is the most important food crop in India with estimates indicating it is the staple food for more than 65% of the population. India has the largest area under rice cultivation with the gross land used to cultivate rice reaching close to 45 million hectares. India is also the second largest milled rice producer with more than 100 million tonnes of rice milled every year.
Rice in India is cultivated across various ecosystems — irrigated (52.6%), rainfed upland (12%), rainfed lowland (32.4%), and semi-deep and deep water (3%).
Similarly, a multiple of rice cropping systems are followed in India including: Rice-Rice-Rice, Rice-Chickpea, Rice-Rice-Cereal, Rice-Rice-Pulses, Rice-Wheat-Pulse, Rice-Toria-Wheat, Rice-Wheat, Rice-Mustard in irrigated conditions, and Rice-Lentil, Rice-Mustard/Linseed, Rice-Barley, Rice-Wheat, and Rice-Pea under rainfed upland conditions.
Low Rice Productivity
India is dependent on rice cultivation for its national food security program. India also devotes a major proportion of its arable land to rice cultivation, however, we witness lower rice productivity in India when compared to other rice growing countries.
Currently, Indian growers produce close to 105 million tonnes of rice per year on close to 45 million hectares of land. India’s yield of approximately 2.4 tonnes per hectare places the country 27th out of 47 rice growing countries. China and Brazil have yield rates of 4.7 tonnes/hectare and 3.6 tonnes/hectare respectively. India could easily double its rice production if it were able to match the yield levels of those countries. Alternatively, India can use reduced farm land to grow the current level of rice and thus, can free some of its arable land for other productive activities. This, in turn can improve income levels and standard of life in Indian villages.
Causes of Low Rice Productivity
Lower rice productivity is attributed to the following major factors:
1. Grower training and efficiency;
2. Technical factors related to modern techniques and methods of rice cultivation;
3. Institutional factors like small and fragmented land holdings;
4. Biotic and abiotic stress factors;
5. Infrastructural factors related to irrigation facilities, road network/ transport facilities etc.
Many Indian growers are illiterate and are not aware of modern techniques and methods for rice production. Lack of education is also associated with a lack of progressive mindset that works like a barrier to adoption of new farming techniques and methods. Even if the grower is educated and aware, he finds it difficult to adopt new farming techniques and methods due to small and fragmented land holdings, making use of modern farm implements less practical and financially nonviable.
Similarly, lack of awareness and/or availability of quality farm inputs like seed varieties, fertilizers and crop protection products is a major factor contributing towards lower rice productivity in India. Growers are also susceptible to varied levels of biotic and abiotic stresses and failing to control/manage these stresses lead to lower yield levels.
Yield Loss Due to Biotic Stresses
Rice plant is subjected to critical insects and diseases that significantly reduce overall rice yield. As per estimates, rice yield is reduced by around 30% because of the impact of biotic stresses in rice cultivation. Based on their economic impact on rice productivity, stem borer, BPH, gall midge, leaf folder, WBPH, and GLH are the major insects whereas, leaf blast, node blast, neck blast, sheath blight, sheath rot, false smut, brown spot, bacterial leaf blight, and Tungro are the major diseases affecting rice productivity.
Crop Protection Scenario for Rice
Currently, the Indian crop protection (CP) market is estimated to be about $2 billion of which 25% ($500 million) is utilized by rice growers. Overall, rice growers use the highest amount of CP products (in value terms) across crops. Of this CP market for rice, insecticides form the largest category with a share of 45%, followed by fungicides with a share of 32%, and herbicides with a share of 22%.
Herbicides are the fastest growing segment because of the benefits they offer growers, including convenience and effective control at low cost. It is expected the herbicide segment will continue to grow as the cost of manual weeding continues to increase. Adoption of new methods of rice cultivation like direct seeded rice (DSR)
and mechanized transplanting, where incidence of weeds is greater than that of traditional methods of manual transplanting are further expected to drive growth of the herbicide segment.
Imidacloprid, cartap, bufrofezin, chlorantraniliprole, and acephate are the most used actives in the insecticide segment. These top five actives cover more than 60%. The next five top actives increase that figure to more than 90% of the total insecticide market for rice.
For fungicides, mancozeb, hexaconazole, tricyclazole, propiconazole, and azoxystrobin are the most used actives accounting for more than 70% of coverage. The top 10 actives provide coverage of more than 90% of the total fungicide market for rice.
Key actives for rice herbicide formulations include bispyribac sodium, butachlor, pretilachlor, oxyfluorfen, and glyphosate. Similar to fungicides, the top five actives cover more than 70% and the top 10 actives cover more than 90% of the total herbicide market for rice.
The Future of the Crop Protection Market
When compared to other countries, consumption of CP products in India is significantly lower. Indian growers still use only around 500 gm of CP products per hectare. Some of the reasons for low consumption include low awareness, low purchasing power, and limited reach of CP products among rice growers. Considering this low CP usage and the high losses due to insects, diseases and weeds, the Indian CP market is expected to grow in the coming years.