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BW Businessworld

Monsanto Had Proven Themselves Greedier: R D Shroff, Chairman United Phosphorus

Executive Chairman of United Phosphorus Ltd. and ADVANTA, Rajnikant Devidas Shroff speaks with BW Businessworld on the issues that touch multiple dimensions of India’s agrarian economy

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He started his business with merely few lakh rupees to invest. Indigenous technology had made him evolve every day and he took over all who tried to block his road. This is his journey to become Pesticides man of India. Executive Chairman of United Phosphorus Ltd. and ADVANTA, Rajnikant Devidas Shroff speaks with BW Businessworld on the issues that touch multiple dimensions of India’s agrarian economy. The edited excerpts:  

What is your assessment for agriculture’s contribution in GDP for coming years?

Share in GDP may come down, as we are still investing in IT services and industry and other structures. But if you talk about agriculture, production and productivity as well, income will go to a high. There are some pessimistic people who may think opposite but income through agriculture will be doubled for sure. I am confident and I can give example for this. In the 70’s era when green revolution had started, our productivity was at 25 billion tonnes in 2001 when we were excited about this trade, our productivity had gone up to 100 billion tonnes, but in previous decade it has gone up to 360 billion tonnes as suggested by United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, it is more than 300 per cent growth. All we have to do is to remove hurdles.

Pesticide and fungicide industry is now mature in India, what are the future possibilities?

We are mature in India and we are even doing great in the overseas market. Our scientists are doing a great job, for instance, my own company exports more than 80 per cent of pesticide to foreign nations. Our prices are lower and our quality is superior. I can tell you if Indian companies will start doing it in a serious manner, many of the foreign companies will start to shut down their plants in Europe. I remember I was the member of the delegation that visited Brazil with the then President of India, Pratibha Patil. During an informal chat at dinner, Brazilian President had been informed by his agriculture commissioner that they are no more importing fertilisers from the United States as they have started buying pesticide from United phosphorus, their quality is far superior and prices are low. Brazilian president Lula was shocked as well as our Indian president. It is an example of possibilities, only if we explore them.

How do you think, will Farmers’ Producer Organisation (FPO) impact the agrarian economy?

There are some good organisations that must take active part which will make a positive impact on the economy, but there are few organisations that work for malicious intents. It is a sensitive issue, so I will not comment on it.

What is the share of seeds business in India captured by foreign multinationals?

Well, not much. Monsanto came to India and did perform well, but they had proven themselves greedier. They messed up Indian market. We are also doing well, we have a plant in India and one plant of seeds is in Thailand. I have a huge farm of seeds in Australia, then I have a research facility in Argentina. Many other Indian firms are also performing well.

Will India ever get a chance to be a leading seeds exporter of the world?

Our vegetables seed quality is very good. We can achieve this benchmark, but tendering process for this business is very complicated. It is a trade that involves high risk. The international tendering process is difficult, for instance, Iran has got high demand, but if you get tenders it pays you very good otherwise your material is gone.

People call you pesticide man of India. Your comments on organic versus chemical issue, what is at the core of it?

There is no organic food in India as of now. I can tell you the people who call their food organic they watch their crops at night in torchlight to see if there is any insect. How many of Indian farmers do this practice? These so-called organic farmers only say we have sprayed a little on it. When all India network of pesticide residue headed by Dr. Sharma checked only organic samples only from Delhi itself, the products that were charged some 300 per cent more margin in the name of being organic, around 60 per cent of such products had pesticide traces in them. Rs 400 kilogram tomato will have 400 per cent more pesticide residue. I challenge people to show me a single example, behind the scenes people will say, ok, I am making money so I cheat people.

How do you look at the future of India’s export market for agriculture?

It is very much full of potential and good (the future). We have to improve marketing techniques, without any hesitation, I can say that prior to this tenure, the APEDA (Indian agriculture export arm) chairman had no idea of agriculture. Whenever products got rejected he started blaming farmers. Now look at the present chairman, he meets people, tries to understand underlying complications. I wrote one letter to Prime Minister as well, my divisions had been visited by people many times. I am sure if we will work with dedication the target of 40 billion can be converted in 100 billion easily.

Why there was extension in fumigation laws?

Fumigations laws were bogus, we had a fight with approver agencies. Agriculture ministry had blamed us for intervention in the matter, we had blamed that few of the chemicals are specifically named, and see the agencies director had been arrested on the charges of corruption. Many of the nations are bound by the Montreal protocol but why to manipulate situation in the name of agencies. Methyl bromide was banned across the globe but agency people were forcing to use it, for instance, if an agency asks for Rs 10 per tonne as a bribe and 5 million tonnes is the size of consignment, they make Rs 5 crore as bribe. Plant protection and quarantine’s director general had also been arrested.

How do you assess GST’s impact on fertiliser and pesticide trade?

I will clearly say, there is not much impact on this trade. After all extra taxes are removed as well. I am sure with the big boom in production it will make no negative impact as such at all.