A Co-operative Business Approach in Bio Economy of India

Dr Parashram Patil

India’s bioeconomy is likely to touch USD 150 billion by 2025 and over USD 300 billion by 2030. The country’s bioeconomy has reached over USD 80 billion in 2021, registering a 14.1 percent growth over USD 70.2 billion in 2020. On average, at least three biotech startups were incorporated every day in 2021 (a total of 1,128 biotech startups set up in 2021) and the industry crossed USD 1 billion in research and development spending. India has the second highest number of USFDA-approved manufacturing plants outside the US.

India administered nearly 4 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines per day (a total of 1.45 billion doses given in 2021). The country conducted 1.3 million Covid-19 tests each day in 2021 (a total of 506.7 million tests). The bio-economy is based upon products of agriculture and bio-resources, therefore, involvement of the cooperative sector at gross root level is inevitable. Considering the closeness of cooperative societies with agriculture and allied sectors, there is a window of opportunities automatically open for the cooperative sector in the bio-economy of India.

What is the bio-economy

As per, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Bio-economics could be defined as the production, use, and conservation of biological resources, including related knowledge, science, technology, and innovation to provide information, products, processes, and services to all economic sectors with the aim of moving towards a sustainable economy.

Co-operative business approach in agricultural bioeconomy

The cooperative sector can professionally be focused on the production of renewable biological resources and their conversion into value-added products including food, feed, bio-based products and bioenergy. Since the cooperative sector is closely working with the agriculture & allied sector especially with farmers, it   may   contribute   in sustainable   agriculture, sustainable fishing, forestry and aquaculture, food and feed manufacturing & bio-based products. Thus, the cooperative sector can address climate change mitigation, biofuels and bioenergy, GMOs, and employment generation.

All efforts should be made to leverage the strengths of cooperatives and transform them into successful and vibrant business enterprises to realize the vision of “Sahakar-se-Samriddhi’ as cooperatives hold the key to rural economic transformation in the country in agriculture and allied sectors. Therefore, Govt of India formed national-level multi-state seed cooperative society which will help to increase the Seed Replacement Rate (SRR), and Varietal Replacement Rate (VRR), ensuring the role of farmers in quality seed cultivation and seed variety trials, production and distribution of certified seeds with a single brand name by utilizing the network of all levels of cooperatives.

Likewise, to realize the potential of agricultural bioeconomy and promote sustainable agriculture, sustainable fishing, forestry and aquaculture, food and feed manufacturing & bio-based products, there should be national level multistate agricultural bio cooperative society may be formed that will promote the co-operative business approach in agricultural bioeconomy by utilizing the network of all levels of cooperatives.

Cooperative approaches in circular economy

Bioeconomy aims to drive both sustainable development and circularity. In particular, the principles of the circular economy — reuse, repair and recycle — are a fundamental part of the bioeconomy. The total amount of waste and its impact is reduced through reuse, repair, and recycling. It also saves energy and minimizes air and water pollution, thus helping to prevent damage to the environment, climate, and biodiversity. The presence of the cooperative sector in sugar, milk & fertilizer is very significant, it generates a lot of waste which can be a raw material to bioeconomy to produce various products. Therefore, the role of the cooperative sector in the circular economy needs to be watched seriously.

Forest cooperatives & forest bioeconomy

The forest bioeconomy uses sustainably managed forest material (forest biomass) to make bioproducts like consumer goods and industrial products. Forest biomass can be any forest material from shrubs to branches, to berries. The bioeconomy ultimately contributes to reduced petrochemical-based products in the economy. As per the India State of Forest Report-2021, forest and tree cover in the country increased by 2,261 square kilometres since the last assessment in 2019. India’s total forest and tree cover was 80.9 million hectares,  which accounted for 24.62% of the geographical area of the country. India is a forest rich country, therefore there is scope for development cooperative business approach in forest bioeconomy.

How is India moving Forward in Bioeconomy?

There are various sectors which are contributing to the growth of India’s Bioeconomy sector like, Bio-Industry, as this sector has got fillip from the Prime Minister’s vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat and India becoming “energy independent” by 2047. Further, the Indian Government has approved the amendments to the National Policy on Biofuels and taken decisions to increase biofuel production and advance the introduction of ethanol blended petrol with up to 20% blend from April 2023.

Another sector like Bio-Agri, which comprises Bt Cotton, pesticides, marine biotech, and animal biotech has the potential to nearly double its Bioeconomy contribution from USD 10.5 billion to USD 20 billion in 2025. Before the pandemic, India was the second largest vaccine exporter by volume according to various research studies.

National Mission on Bioeconomy

Amid attempts to boost rural economy by using bio- resources, a ‘National Mission on Bioeconomy’ was launched by the Institute of Bio-resources and Sustainable Development under the Science and Technology Ministry, in 2016. The cooperative business can help to achieve national mission on bioeconomy as they have significant presence and contribution in rural development.

What are the Indian Govt Initiatives related to Bioeconomy?

National Biopharma Mission, ‘Innovate India’ 2017, a Department of Biotechnology (DBT) programme worth US$ 250 million, aims to bring together industry and academia in order to promote entrepreneurship and indigenous manufacturing in biopharma. 35 Bio incubators have been set up across India with world-class facilities. The first International Incubator- Clean Energy International Incubator has been set up under Mission Innovation by DBT & BIRAC. Startups from 23 participating EU countries can potentially come & incubate in India and likewise, startups from this incubator can go to the partnering countries facilitating access to global opportunities. The department is supporting 4 Bio-clusters (NCR, Kalyani, Bangalore, and Pune).

A way forward

The bioeconomy sector has the potential to have a cascading multiplier effect on the overall economic growth of the country. This sunrise sector promotes agricultural waste which can be converted into the products by various forms of organization, one of the forms of business could be cooperative business. The strategically and systematically cooperative sector can be transformed towards agricultural bioeconomy in coming days as agricultural bioeconomy will be the future of rural India. In this context opening of national level multisite agricultural bio cooperative society would be the right step.

Dr. Parashram Patil is NMML Fellow, Agriculture Economist, New Delhi.

Disclaimer: All views expressed in the article belong solely to the author and not necessarily to the organization.

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Acknowledgement: Posted by Aasthaba Jadeja, a Research Intern at IMPRI.