The Andean Region is reeling from its direct-to-farmer pesticide program. In an attempt to provide broader access to affordable crop protection products, the Andean community, starting with Peru, has been revising policies one country at a time to allow individuals and associations to import directly from the producers and import/export companies with minimal registration procedures or compliance checks. The results have been catastrophic.
Fernando de la Puente, vice president of Interloc, a formulator of pesticides in the Andean region, explains that chemical companies have invested millions of dollars and years of their time creating their businesses around the traditional rules of pesticide import. “Now, with a very simple process, growers and associations are allowed to import directly from China. It is unfair competition,” he explains. “The growers are buying mostly from traders, and, on some occasions, we have seen that they have imported pesticides that do not have the same active ingredients.”
Richard Franklin, executive director of CropLife in the Andean Region, says that the environmental impact could take a serious toll. “The quality of the pesticides, the fate of the used containers and residue on exports are all of grave concern,” he says, “and for a 10% to 15% savings on production costs, the risk far outweighs the benefit.”
The first country to adopt a direct-import method was Peru, which enacted Agricultor-Importador-Usuario, (AIU) or “grower-importer-user” in 2002. Before this, Franklin describes the Andean Region as having a “unique and harmonized system of registration and controls that included manufacturing, commercialization, and import.” The government, however, looking to boost the agriculture industry, believed that saving growers the cost of registration could create a boom in production.
Fernando Vera Hernandez, president of the Latin American federation of national crop protection associations, explains that over the years, there have been various efforts by the Andean Community of Nations (CAN) to convince the government to halt the allowance of direct import by farmers.
AIU was thus officially revoked in Peru with all registrations created under it cancelled in 2011. But direct importation of pesticides pressed on despite legislation changes.
The Andean Region Takes Note
Other countries in the region began to notice the cost savings and lack of paperwork direct import involved. The Colombian Agriculture Institute, for example, enacted a resolution that established requirements for becoming registered as an importer of pesticides for “personal use.”
The issue de la Puente and other industry leaders have with legislation allowing direct import of pesticides is that while CAN’s legislation had health and environmental guidelines with a checks-and-balances system, the new legislation does not. In addition, de la Puente states that although he knows that the environmental and health ministers in Colombia are against any further implementation of an AIU-type allowance, the Colombian Agricultural Institute seems to be in favor.
Ecuador has also indicated an interest in the commercialization of direct import of pesticides, explains Vera. “Because of this, unions are trying to speed up the negotiations with the government through the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Aquaculture, and Fisheries in Ecuador to get approval.”
Bolivia, the final piece of the Andean puzzle, has not implemented any legislation related to the direct import of pesticides. Although Vera says discussions involving the director of the National Agricultural Health and Food Safety have taken place, nothing has been approved because the Bolivian authorities do not want to disrupt what they consider to be a “strong registration system.”