Indian agriculture sector has been moving from one crisis to another, which is evident by the spate of farmer suicides during the last several years.
John Galbraith, a renowned economist and former US ambassador of India said several years back, that Indian economy is largely dependent on performance of agriculture sector, which, in turn, is dependent on weather and seasonal conditions.
Agricultural sector is affected if it rains too much or if there is drought. Though vulnerability of Indian agriculture sector to seasonal conditions are well known, during the last six decades of independent India, successive state and central governments have not been able to find solution adequately for this vexed issue confronting the Indian agriculture sector.
Obviously, there is urgent need to stabilize the Indian agri economy and put it on firm rail, that would help in sustained economic and social growth, employment generation and equanimity of income and opportunities to a large extent.
What is urgently needed is to make agricultural operation more remunerative or atleast as remunerative as industrial operations and business in services sector.
One obvious method of achieving this end is to promote large number of agro chemical projects in India, which would lead to the production of eco friendly products in a significant way and can also be substitute for petrochemicals(which are not adequately produced in India due to feedstock constraints or ecological issues). Unfortunately, no specially focused attention have been paid to boost the agro chemical projects in the country so far.
Agro chemicals from tapioca, maize
There are many agro chemicals that can be produced from tapioca or maize based starch such as sorbitol, L-lysine, lactic acid / poly lactic acid, citric acid and several others, which are not adequately produced in the country. India remains net importer of these starch based chemicals.
Agro chemicals from castor seed
India is a large producer of castor seed in the world and is largely exporting castor seed and castor oil without much value addition. There are exciting possibilities of producing value added chemical products from castor seed including polymers that would be game changers for the Indian castor industry. China and Brazil, which are also large producers of castor seeds, are now focusing on such value added products from castor seeds.
Agro chemicals from sugarcane
India is a large producer of sugarcane and there are many sugarcane molasses based products that can be profitably produced including industrial ethanol, that can lead to several downstream products, which are petrochemical substitutes . Unfortunately, molasses are being converted largely into alcohol for human consumption.
Algae based products
Algae is very important and quick growing crop, that can be cultivated in tropical conditions that are prevalent in India. Algae cultivation needs only waste water, carbon dioxide and sunlight, which are all abundantly available in India. Several species of algae contain more than 35% of oil. Bio fuel can be produced from algae by extraction from algae bio mass. Residual mass can be subjected to anaerobic digestion to produce methane gas (natural gas), which can be used for power generation. After anaerobic digestion, the remaining mass can be subjected to fermentation to produce ethyl alcohol and several ethyl alcohol derivative products. India is reported have more than 40 million hectares of waste land and algae can be cultivated in atleast two million hectares of waste land. Several integrated algae based projects can be set up in various parts of the country, that will significantly lead to all around development including improvement in rural economy.
Integrated algae based projects that involve cultivation of algae, production of bio fuel, setting up of power plant based on methane gas and production of ethyl alcohol can be promoted atleast in one hundred locations around India. Each of such integrated project with economic viability will call for investment of around Rs. 120 crores.
So many opportunities
There are so many other attractive agro chemical investment opportunities, that remain to be utilised.
Farmers need guidelines
Indian farmers should be given continuous guidelines by government of India with regard to choice of crop they should cultivate to get maximum returns.. Such decisions are now taken by farmers largely as community decision at local level based on the views of senior members. It would be appropriate if the Government of India would provide guidelines to the farmers in various parts of India from time to time about the choice of crop for cultivation based on demand supply forecast, price forecast, monsoon forecast etc. The policy of government of India with regard to the support mechanism for various crops can be evolved from time to time, with reference to the above forecast and guidelines.
Need for pro active and appropriate approach
Government of India should apply it’s mind to make Indian agriculture more broad based and more remunerative.
Indian agri sector need innovative approach to sustain it’s growth and promotion of agro chemical projects is the best way of doing so. Government of India has a very important and significant role to play.