India is all set to become the food bowl of the world.

Shri Vipal Mitra (IAS), Former Chairman, GNFC Limited.

The key factors enabling Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilizers & Chemicals (GNFC) Limited to weather these tough times are highly integrated plants operating at full capacity and a strong grip and developed domestic market share. Shri Vipul Mitra (IAS)in an exclusive interview with former Chairman, GNFC Limited Hemangini S. Rajput of Elite News Network (ENN). Edited quotes:

As Chairman of GNFC, can you elaborate on the market dynamics and challenges faced by the fertilizer and chemical industry in the current scenario? How is GNFC addressing these challenges and maintaining its competitive position?

The fertilizer and chemical sector in India is facing major challenges such as high prices of basic raw materials like natural gas and crude oil, lag in subsidy recovery, freight under-recovery, energy consumption norms for urea, low profitability, high commercial debt, high capital costs, the need for technological modernization of its facilities, supply chain constraints, and cheap imports. The current market situation is sluggish due to weak global demand. India, being in better shape, is a favorable dumping ground for foreign suppliers, especially China. Due to such a situation, the Indian chemical industry is going through a difficult period. However, GNFC is insulated as its products find their applications in various end-use sectors.

GNFC is the largest basic chemical manufacturer of Acetic Acid, Ethyl Acetate, Nitric Acid, Formic Acid, Aniline, Toluene Diisocyanate, Ammonium Nitrate, Methanol, Technical Grade Urea, etc. There are blocks. Application areas like textiles, pharmaceuticals, paints, inks, rubber, leather, polyurethane foam, adhesives, explosives, laminates, diesel exhaust fluid etc. The key factors enabling GNFC to navigate through these challenging times are highly integrated plants that are fully functional. Capacity and firmly grasped and developed domestic market. This is the inherent strength of GNFC.

India aims to become the food bowl of the world by 2035. What is your vision in this regard and how can GNFC contribute to realizing this vision?

India’s large population of 1.4 billion means that its domestic food security concerns will overshadow any ambitions to become an agricultural export powerhouse even though the country is the largest producer of several food commodities. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), it is the largest producer of milk and pulses, and the second largest producer of rice, wheat, sugarcane, groundnuts, vegetables and fruits.

India, aided by technological advances in agriculture such as precision agriculture, mechanization, development of high-yielding varieties, balanced fertilization, and maintenance of soil health, certainly has the potential to become a ‘Food Bowl’.

According to research published by consulting firm Arthur D. Little (ADL), ‘Investment in technology-driven innovation can lead India to catch up with its global peers. The 3Is, which include innovation, infrastructure, and investment, should be prioritized.’

GNFC, as an agricultural input company, is working to supply quality products that help in higher productivity and improved soil health. Apart from this, continuous advice on new and effective methods of agricultural practices is being conveyed to the farming community through various sources.

In your opinion, what role does technology play in advancing agriculture and fertilizer practices in India? Can you give some examples of how technology has positively impacted the sector?

Modern technology has had a significant impact on agriculture, revolutionizing the industry and improving productivity, efficiency and sustainability. Here are some important ways in which technology has affected agriculture:

  • Healthy farming: Technologies such as GPS, remote sensing, and geographic information systems (GIS) enable farmers to collect accurate data about their fields. This data helps them optimize their use of fertilizers, water and pesticides, which improves crop yields and reduces environmental impact.
  • Automation: Agricultural machinery has rapidly adopted automation solutions, reducing the need for manual labor and improving efficiency. Tractors equipped with GPS systems can navigate the field accurately, and automated machinery can perform tasks such as planting, harvesting and sorting crops with precision and speed.
  • Remote Monitoring: Internet of Things (IoT) devices and sensors allow farmers to remotely monitor various aspects of their operations. They can track soil moisture levels, temperature, moisture, and crop growth patterns, helping them make informed decisions about irrigation, pest control, and crop management.
  • Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology: Advances in biotechnology have led to the development of genetically modified (GM) crops with improved traits such as disease resistance, drought tolerance, and higher nutrition. These crops increase yield and reduce pesticide use.
  • Data Analytics Solutions: Collecting and analyzing large amounts of data from farm operations has become critical to making informed decisions. Farmers can analyze data on weather patterns, crop performance, soil conditions and market trends to improve their farming practices, reduce risks and maximize profits.
  • Vertical Farming and Indoor Agriculture: With the help of technology, indoor farming systems, such as hydroponics, aquaponics, and vertical farming, have gained popularity. These methods allow year-round cultivation in a controlled environment, conserve water and land, and reduce transportation costs.
  • Drone and satellite images: Drones equipped with high-resolution cameras and sensors can capture detailed images of fields. These images help identify crop health, detect pest and disease outbreaks, and predict irrigation needs. Satellite imagery provides a broader perspective, allowing farmers to monitor large areas and make data-driven decisions.
  • Farm Management Software: Specialized software applications help farmers manage their operations effectively. These tools enable them to plan and track activities, manage inventories, analyze finances, and streamline logistics, improving overall farm management.

Overall, modern technology has transformed agriculture, making it more productive, sustainable, and flexible. By taking advantage of these developments, farmers can optimize their resources, reduce environmental impact, and meet the growing demand for food in a rapidly changing world.

Examples of recent developments include soil analysis equipment that can provide accurate soil condition and use accurate information, micro-irrigation saving water and costs for farmers, monsoon forecasting in advance for weather conditions. Aiding in preparations, use of drones to reduce dependence on farm labour, and initiatives like E-NAM create opportunities for farmers to realize better prices for their produce.

Climate change is a major challenge for the agricultural sector. What strategies or measures does GNFC use to address the impacts of climate change on agriculture and ensure long-term sustainability?

GNFC conducts regular form advisory and will continue to provide ways to mitigate the impact of adverse weather conditions based on the methods and means developed/suggested by stakeholders and scientists.

As sustainable agriculture gains importance, how does GNFC help farmers adopt environmentally friendly practices, such as organic farming and reduced chemical use?

The company provides services for soil and water analysis and continuously encourages farmers to plan their information based on the needs derived from the analysis. GNFC also offers organic fertilizers like City Compost and has introduced Narmada Nano Urea to reduce the use of granular urea, which pollutes the environment, soil and water alike. Further, we have plans to market fermented organic manure, a by-product of compressed biogas plants, to increase organic carbon in the soil.

eGov Magazine

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