Data provided by the government in the Parliament indicates that the consumption of Chemical Pesticides has not reduced in the country with the consumption averaging around 60,000 MT in the last nine years. On the other hand, the consumption of bio-pesticides has increased by more than 40% between 2015-16 and 2021-22 though their total consumption is less than 1/6th of the chemical pesticide consumption.
To ensure that agriculture production meets the increasing demand for food, pesticides are being widely used to protect crops from pests. While the availability of safe and efficacious pesticides and their judicious use by the farming community is critical to the long-term sustainability of agriculture, pesticides have also been identified as a key threat to the Sustainable Development Goals because of their potential to adversely affect the non-target species and the environment. Pesticide exposure is associated with cancers and neurological, immunological, and reproductive effects, among other health impacts on human beings. The excessive and inefficient use of these chemicals has also led to nutrient losses, drinking water contamination, and eutrophication of freshwater systems and coastal zones.
Apart from the direct consequences on humans and the environment, accidents are another consequence because of toxicity. In 2021 alone, the NCRB reported close to 8000 incidents of accidental Intake of Insecticides/Pesticides which resulted in the death of 7800 persons in India. Farmer suicides and corporate monopoly are some of the other issues linked to pesticides.
Pesticide consumption is also a topic of discussion in various global conferences related to sustainability and the environment. In COP 15 of the Convention on Bio-Diversity, the Indian Government expressed that a numerical global target for pesticide reduction is unnecessary and must be left to countries to decide since food security was important in developing states where agriculture is a primary economic driver for rural communities.
Consumption of chemical pesticide in India has increased over the decades
India being an agrarian economy, more than 40% of the workforce is employed in the sector thereby bringing the focus on agricultural development in the country’s planning and policy. India is among the leading producers and consumers of pesticides in Asia and the World. The consumption of pesticides in India increased several hundred folds from 154 MT in 1953-54 to 80,000 MT in 1994-95 with the Green Revolution being a major contributor. However, since then, the consumption steadily dropped to 54,135 MT in 1999-2000 because of the ban and restriction on the use of organochlorine pesticides and the introduction of the Integrated Pest Management programme.
In the last decade from 2012-13 to 2021-22, India’s consumption of chemical pesticides has been an average of 58,429.7 MT. Not including 2012-13 when the consumption was below 50,000 MT, the average consumption was 59,853.1 MT in nine years. The consumption was the lowest in 2012-13 with 45,619 MT and highest in 2017-18 with 63,406 MT consumed. Overall, the consumption has been more in the second half of the decade with an average of 61,138 MT as compared to 55,721 MT in the first half.
Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh account for 40% of the chemical pesticides consumed in the country
Among states, Maharashtra is the largest consumer of chemical pesticides followed by Uttar Pradesh. With more than 10,000 MT consumed by each of these states annually, the two states alone contributed to 38% to 42.4% of the total chemical pesticides consumed in the country every year since 2015-16. Punjab is the third highest consumer with an average of more than 5525 MT consumed from 2015-16 to 2020-21. Punjab’s data for 2021-22 is not yet available. The three states together contributed 48% to 51% of the total consumption during the six years from 2015-16 to 2020-21.
Though Telangana and Haryana have an average consumption of more than 4000 MT in the seven years, the consumption in Telangana increased till 2017-18 and then stabilized while in Haryana, the consumption has been in the range of 4000 to 4100 MT in the same period. The states of Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Jharkhand, and Odisha & Jammu and Kashmir have witnessed a gradual rise in consumption during the said period whereas states like Kerala and Andhra Pradesh reported a decline in consumption.
The northeastern states of Meghalaya and Sikkim were marked as ‘Organic States’ in the response provided in the parliament. Among the remaining northeastern states, consumption is mostly in Assam and Tripura.
Consumption of bio-pesticides is increasing
In recent years, the government is promoting the use of bio-pesticides through various schemes. The consumption of bio-pesticides at the national level was 6,148 MT in 2015-16 which rose to 8,898.92 MT in 2021-22. That is, in the last seven years, the use of bio-pesticides increased by close to 45%. Though there has been a continuous increase in biopesticide consumption, the quantity is still very less compared to conventional chemical pesticides. The percentage of bio-pesticides consumption as against chemical pesticides consumption stood at 15% in 2021-22, up from 10.8% in 2015-16.
Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and West Bengal account for one-third of the bio-pesticides consumption in India
Maharashtra was the major consumer of bio-pesticides until 2019-20. However, the state’s consumption has declined since 2016-17. From 1,454 MT in 2016-17 accounting for one-fifth of the consumption at the national level, the state’s consumption has dropped to below 1000 MT in the last two years. Its share in consumption has also dropped to 10.5% in 2021-22. Since 2020-21, Rajasthan has been the highest consumer of bio-pesticides, overtaking Maharashtra. West Bengal also consumed more than 1000 MT in the last 3 years. The three states continue to account for almost one-third of the country’s bio-pesticide consumption.
Rajasthan reported an almost 100 times increase in the consumption of biopesticides in the last seven years. The annual consumption was below 15 MT between 2015-16 to 2018-19 and jumped to 1268 MT in 2021-22 contributing to 14.2% of the national consumption.
A significant increase was also witnessed in the states of Telangana, Tamil Nadu, and Chhattisgarh. Meanwhile, the states of Kerala and Odisha witnessed a decline in consumption in the last 3-4 years. Despite being one of the largest consumers of chemical pesticides, Uttar Pradesh’s consumption of bio-pesticides has been very low. The state reported having consumed only less than 50 MT until 2020-21 and 50.88 MT in 2021-22. Though the state has witnessed an increase in usage, Andhra Pradesh has also reported 45 MT in 2021-22. The consumption in these two states is among the lowest among large states.
Government’s push towards sustainable agriculture
As per responses provided in the parliament, The central government promotes sustainable agriculture and encourages the use of biopesticides through organic farming schemes of Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) and Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region (MOVCDNER). Educational programs are held for farmers to shift to eco-friendly products. ICAR and state agriculture universities are also working on developing biopesticides. To promote the judicious use of pesticides, Central and State Governments through their field agencies ensure that farmers are provided with the right knowledge/ information about recommended pesticide use. The Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare is also propagating the Integrated Pest Management approach through its 36 Central Integrated Pest Management Centres located in 28 States and 2 UTs. However, as observed earlier, the high usage of chemical pesticides continues in many states.
Featured Image: Consumption of Chemical Pesticides