The criminal business of counterfeit pesticides is among the ten leading businesses in terms of profitability. Only Ukrainian farmers spend more than USD 2 billion per year on agrochemicals and use 100 thousand tons of plant protection products to preserve their crops. Approximately a quarter of them are counterfeit, and in retail, in small packages, the counterfeit reaches 80-90% for small packaging. There are too many people who want to make money on someone’s account, which results in the suffering of ecology, insects, animals, and people.
Tetiana Sushko, the executive director of the Beekeepers’ Association, said in an interview with the media that this year, according to preliminary estimates, 35-40 thousand bee families died due to poor quality chemicals for plant cultivation. Thus, the financial losses of beekeepers reached at least UAH 100-120 million. The manufacturers use agrochemicals every year. Why has the issue become so acute this year?
In the spring and summer, the Security Service of Ukraine bodies and prosecutor’s offices managed to identify several powerful channels for supplying large lots of unlicensed plant protection products. In Brovary, law enforcement officers revealed a firm that sold counterfeit products to agricultural producers. The company sold products as European chemicals, but in fact, they were Chinese counterfeits. At the end of June, the Security Service of Ukraine blocked the supply of plant protection products from China of unknown origin, which were imported to Ukraine under the guise of licensed European products. Law enforcement officers seized a large lot of products – 150 tons of pesticides the total cost of which is nearly UAH 18 million. It is known that counterfeit products were sold throughout Ukraine. “In fact, the perpetrators traded chemicals that were not allowed to be imported and did not undergo compulsory state registration in Ukraine. In the process of customs clearance, false data was filled in the declarations, as if the plant protection products were manufactured in the territory of the European Union and have state registration. And the officers of customs service and environmental authorities deliberately did not see discrepancies in chemicals that were imported under the guise of high-quality plant protection products,” said Mykhailo Apostol, the advisor to the Minister of the Interior.
Andrii Chelombitko, the director of the Department of Phytosanitary Safety and Seed Control, believes that an increase in the turnover of counterfeit chemical products was provoked by the introduction of a moratorium on inspections of business entities. “This not only negatively affects the reputation of Ukraine as a reliable partner in the turnover of high-quality products of plant origin but also causes irreparable damage to the environment and people’s health,” he said during a press conference devoted to counterfeit pesticides.
“There are two sources of the counterfeit products – import and domestic production,” says Mykhailo Malkov, the international consultant for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Ukraine. “Domestic production depends directly on the mechanism of collection and disposal of packaging. Sometimes farmers sell empty containers for cash. Occasionally there are cases of sale of overdue pesticides, which are also a kind of the waste. Smuggling is a huge problem as well.”
The expert believes that one of the effective methods to combat the shadow market is to limit the number of entry points for imported pesticides into Ukraine. “This is wrong when any customs point can clear such substances as pesticides,” emphasizes Mykhailo Malkov. “We do not have legally operating facilities for the disposal of pesticides. So far, the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Ukraine has not issued any permits for the transboundary shipment of chemical waste for the purpose of their disposal abroad.”
In addition, the expert draws attention to the growth of online sales. Such trading platforms usually sell illegal chemicals. This is especially true for auction sites. Such an online store is just the tip of the iceberg. Individuals who leave their contact numbers there are not the owners of the goods, large batches of which are stored in illegal warehouses. One can fight against the sale of counterfeit goods via the Internet only taking into consideration the culture of consumers. Original plant protection products are not sold at a low price via the websites.
Usually they counterfeit products that are “known” ones. So if we have too many “old” pesticides on the market the greater will be the proportion of falsification because well-known products are easier to counterfeit and sell. The situation is further complicated by the fact that the registration of new drugs has been blocked for three years now. In the end of 2016, people’s deputies made lobbyist amendments to the draft law on deregulation for business. As a result, farmers do not have innovative chemicals to protect their crop. Agrarians were deprived of their choice. The Ukrainian consumer will soon not have it too because he will receive products of less quality and which are less environmentally friendly.
Today, the draft law number 6606, which proposes to allow the import of chemical products for passing the state tests in Ukraine, is registered in the Verkhovna Rada. It is supported by agrarian associations, the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food, and international organizations. It now depends on the deputies whether we will have safer food products, whether farmers will continue to use “outdated” pesticides.