Nov 5, 2015

Service Every Bottle : Are Agrochemical Manufacturers Doing Enough to Take Product Awareness to the Last Farmer?

With the Indian agro chemical industry today mature enough to make long term investments, a number of players are talking about the need to make R & D investment a major part of their strategy. The use of low dosage, high potency agrochemicals is the way forward. Resultantly, many agrochemicals companies have come up with new products to enable farmers boost crop production, safety and quality. However, are these companies marketing their products well among their target audience i.e farmers? Are they paying enough attention to ensuring the products and the message of right usage reach the intended target? In India, where most of the farmers are illiterate and not even equipped to correctly decipher the directions or instructions for using the products listed on the product bottles, reaching out to them becomes all the more important.

Consumer durable manufacturers will tell you how advertising is absolutely crucial to the sale of their products. It is not enough to research, manufacture and distribute; communicating with the end users is equally important. This is what we mean when we propagate the concept of ‘Servicing Every Bottle’.

Like any other product on the market, agrochemicals too need marketing and servicing. All the more, because these products decide the fate of crops and can make much difference in the lives of farmers. Much like anti-biotics are crucial to survival from bacterial infections, agrochemicals are indispensable to fight environmental attacks on crops in the form of insects, pests etc.

Teaching the farmers on how to use the new product can help in obtaining best products and desired results. And much like other product manufacturers ensure message delivery to end user, it becomes a responsibility for the agrochemical industry to ensure awareness percolates down to the last farmer.

Agrochemicals including pesticides, bio fertilizers and herbicides are crucial to food security in India. However, in recent years, we have witnessed an increasing debate over the safety of agro chemicals, with skeptics raising issues of hazards for the soil and the health. It is important to emphasize that solution does not lie in doing away with agrochemicals but in increasing awareness about their correct and judicious use. This is where the twin objectives of product marketing and farmer awareness merge into each other. A new product can attain success only if the farmer is personally guided on the usage and direction of use of the product. Only when the farmer attains a desirable result from the product, he would approve the product and recommend others for its use.

As per Government of India estimates, total value of crops lost due to non-use of pesticides is around USD 17 billion every year. This highlights the fact that a large number of our farmers are either not using agrochemicals to protect crops and boost yields or are not adequately aware about their optimum usage. While agrochemicals have reached the market available to many farmers, educators and illustrators have often not been able to reach each one of them to inform about the judicious use of the products. Marketing agrochemical products correctly remains a major focus area for the industry. This will not only increase product penetration but also educate farmers about the judicious use of agrochemicals in terms of quantity to be used, the right application methodology and appropriate chemicals to be used for identified pest problems.

Much like medicines have prescribed dosage and mechanism of consumption, each agrochemical product has a prescribed dosage and method of usage. Deviating from the method can take away its benefits. On the other hand, excessive usage (more than the prescribed dosage) can cause health hazards. In our close observation of agriculture, we have observed that a lot of faulty practices are still followed by ignorant farmers who have access to the products but not to an educator.

In the era, which is driven by new technology, market is filled with new products. While a farmer, deprived of awareness would know well about the generic products, he would hesitate to buy any new products due to lack of knowledge and high cost. Amidst the scenario, if the farmer daring to buy the new product fails to attain the desired result due to wrong usage of the product, the respective product will lose its substantial market. It therefore becomes the duty of all agrochemical companies to directly approach farmers for their products and give them live demonstrations regarding the usage.

While many initiatives are taken by the government to reach to the last farmer, individual companies should proactively take initiatives in this regard. At IIL, we take this aspect of marketing the products very seriously. In June this year, IIL Foundation launched a major training cum awareness campaign aimed at reaching over 1 lakh farmers spread across 350 villages of Madhya Pradesh to help them improve their cultivation practices and educate them about effective crop protection solutions

Insecticides (India) Limited in its dedicated efforts is promoting “Service in every bottle” which emphasizes the need to market products well and educate each and every farmer about the contents of the bottle sold to him. As the farmers are not educated to understand the chemical compositions of the products, it is pertinent to demonstrate the right use of the product for it to have the desirable effect. For e.g., if there are three chemical components that are part of an agro chemical product, it is extremely important to adhere to the order in which they shall be used as well as the quantity in which they are to be used. For this, it becomes very important to cultivate a personal interface with the farmers, which IIL has done successfully in many parts of the country.

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