- Interview with Li Zhonghua, Executive Vice President and
Secretary General of the China Crop Protection Industry Association
China’s No. 1 central document for 2022 proposed propelling reduction of agricultural inputs. How will this affect domestic pesticide industry? What directions should the pesticide industry focus on to achieve high-quality development during the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-2025)? You can find the answers in the exclusive interview with Li Zhonghua, Executive Vice President and Secretary General of the China Crop Protection Industry Association.
Higher requirements for green development
China Chemical News (CCN): No. 1 central document for 2022 calls for promoting green development of agriculture and reduction of agricultural inputs. How does the document impact China’s pesticide industry? In addition, China has issued policies to reduce usage amount and increase efficiency of pesticides and fertilizers. What influences do they have on the pesticide industry?
Li Zhonghua: Green development and agricultural input reduction put forward higher requirements for the pesticide industry, which has been trying to reach related targets mainly by taking the following measures:
First, to optimize product mix via phasing out high-toxic pesticides and developing highly-effective, low-toxic substitutes
Second, to propel scientific use of pesticides (by means of conducting related training, etc.), green prevention and control technologies (e.g. biological control, etc.), intelligent and precise application technologies and efficient pesticide application equipment
Third, to promote recycling of pesticide packaging wastes by means of relevant standards and mechanisms
Fourth, to improve specialized services so that efficiency of pesticide use could increase
Since the government issued policies to reduce usage amount and increase efficiency of pesticides and fertilizers, utilization rates of pesticides have increased, with the rates of pesticides applied to rice, wheat and corn reaching 40.6% in 2020, up four percentage points from 2015. Pesticide enterprises will continue to research new products and pesticide application facilities/technologies to boost green development of agriculture.
CCN: Innovation is necessary to reduce usage amount and increase efficiency of pesticides. What are the major areas of innovation?
Li Zhonghua: Innovation should focus on products, production, application and management mechanisms. In detail, universities, R&D institutions and companies should develop new pesticides that are highly-efficient, low-toxic and eco-friendly and have independent intellectual property rights. Enterprises should upgrade production technologies and units to make them more environmentally friendly and intelligent, reduce consumption of energy and meanwhile produce higher-quality products.
Further, pesticide application should be optimized in terms of related standards, devices, methods, etc. Pesticide management mechanisms should be innovated by establishing digital management platforms, improving pesticide quality and safety traceability systems, etc.
CCN: The government pays increasingly more attention to safe use of pesticides. How to ensure safe application?
Li Zhonghua: Quality safety level of agricultural products has improved in recent years, but in some regions, potential risks still exist. Hence, scientific application of pesticides is important. This is helpful not only to quality safety of agricultural products but also to agricultural production safety and environmental security.
Five systems in new stage of development
CCN: What achievements did the pesticide industry obtain in 2021? What are its major tasks during the 14th Five-Year Plan period?
Li Zhonghua: In spite of difficulties arising from the coronavirus, global recession, etc., the domestic pesticide industry performed soundly in 2021, making progresses in many aspects like production, sales and industry benefits.
In a new stage of development, the pesticide industry faces a lot of challenges such as more stringent policies (e.g. environmental protection policies), people’s growing concerns over food safety, increasing costs (e.g. labor costs) and urgent need of structural adjustment. In addition, decelerated growth of global pesticide sales, more influential bioengineering technology and more non-trade barriers will obviously bring more uncertainties. The pesticide industry should actively cope with. While conducting innovation activities continually, the pesticide industry intends to establish a modern production system and a R&D innovation system, standardize the service system, and improve the safe application and supervision systems.
CCN: This year is vital for the targets of achieving carbon emission peak and carbon neutrality (double carbon targets). What are the effects of the double carbon targets on the pesticide industry?
Li Zhonghua: The double carbon targets and the policies to reduce quantity and intensity of energy consumption resulted in raw material shortage, soaring prices of some pesticides and shrinking profits of downstream firms. Hence, pesticide companies have to solve problems of small-scale production, outdated product mix, weak innovation ability, etc. Meanwhile, they are forced to accelerate low-carbon transition, adopt green technologies and equipment, and establish or improve cleaner production management systems.
Industry brand building
CCN: In terms of establishing brands, what are the shortcomings of domestic enterprises compared with multinational corporations? How will the CCPIA help member enterprises build brands?
Li Zhonghua: Brand core lies in product quality. Multinationals corporations undoubtedly have advantages. Further, efficacy investigation, product formulation optimization and training on scientific use are all their strong points. Most domestic enterprises pay too much attention to marketing. To help member companies establish brands, the CCPIA will: 1) cooperate with the National Agro-tech Extension and Service Center to help enterprises in propelling scientific application of pesticides; 2) make group standards related to production and scientific use of pesticides to cultivate a batch of model enterprises; 3) conduct eco-friendly, high-quality agricultural inputs (pesticides) production and application pilot enterprises review, more specifically technical review, entrusted by the Agricultural Product Quality and Safety Center of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.