India will overtake China to become the most populated country on the planet in 2024, according to a UN forecast, reaching 1.5 billion people by 2030. The expectation on farmers to feed the growing population is huge, but their efforts are being undermined by criminals. It is estimated that almost 25 percent of the pesticide market in India is counterfeit or illegal. Given Indian farmers spend $125 million on pesticides every year, a significant figure is likely spent on illegal products that undermine stewardship efforts across the country.
The knock-on cost is significant. According to a report from the Indian Chamber of Commerce, the use of ineffectual, illegal products leads to the loss of 10.6 million tons of food per year. Meanwhile, exporters fear the use of counterfeits will threaten India’s position as one of the world’s leading grain exporters – worth $26 billion a year – due to traces of illegal products found on shipments.
In the Indian state of Punjab, the problems with counterfeit pesticides are taking a toll not only on the food supply, but also on farmers’ confidence. When a farmer purchases a crop protection product or seed for their field, they expect it to work. If the products fail, farmers lose their investment and waste their money. In 2017, the Times of India reported that 60 percent of the Punjab cotton crop was lost due to the use of illegal, ineffective pesticides.
“The sale of substandard, spurious and counterfeit pesticides is a major problem with serious implications for farmers, Indian agriculture, society and the economy at large,” says Dr. J. S. Sandhu from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. “These products not only fail to take care of pests, but also inflict damage on crops and the environment. The resultant loss is multiple not only to farmers, who are cheated, but lower yields also have an impact on the national economy.”
Stewardship and Awareness Raising
To help address the problem, CropLife International, CropLife Asia and CropLife India are engaged with a range of stakeholders including the Ministry of Agriculture, border control authorities, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry and farmer groups.
Raising awareness of the trade in counterfeits is one core action. For the past three years CropLife India has joined the government to send letters to 200,000 pesticide dealers, to warn about the risks of counterfeit products and potential sanctions for those supplying illegal products to farmers. CropLife India is also developing an online training program consisting of multiple e-learning modules and assessments to help dealers tackle fake products.
Incorporating anti-counterfeit messaging into stewardship training is another important activity. This year, CropLife India has begun a personal protective equipment (PPE) project in Punjab and Andhra Pradesh. The aim is to work with the supply chain and raise farmer awareness around the responsible use of pesticides, including how to recognize and select legitimate products. By working with NGOs, the government, and health services, CropLife India and its members
aim to reach 400,000 farmers over the course of the project.
There is evidence that the message is getting through. In another flagship project, undertaken in the Adoni region of the state of Andhra Pradesh, CropLife International, CropLife Asia and CropLife India partnered with two local Indian NGOs to provide stewardship training. The project trained 128,000 farm families over a six-year period. Immediately after training, 93.2 percent of farmers were aware of the dangers of counterfeit pesticides (including how to recognize and avoid them), rising to 97 percent four years later, as good practices spread through the community.
All stakeholders – including government,industry, NGOs and the food industry – must continue to invest in anti-counterfeit measures like these,to ensure farmers can effectively protect their crops and can meet the challenge to feed a population soon to hit 1.5 billion.
What Does CropLife International do About Counterfeit Pesticides?
In user markets the focus is on raising farmer awareness, promoting the integrity of legal distribution, and encouraging joint regulatory and police enforcement actions.
Farmer awareness is delivered through effective stewardship and education. CropLife International does this through communications, advocacy, and training that has reached more than 3.7 million farmers since 2005. Farmers are taught how to take all reasonable precautions, to buy from legitimate authorized sellers, and to report (anonymously if needed) any suspected sales of counterfeit or illegal pesticides to the relevant authority.
Coupled with capacity-building at the farmer level, CropLife International is engaged with major global efforts to tackle illegal products, working collaboratively with organizations such as the Business Alliance to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy and the REACT Anti-Counterfeiting Network. Here, the focus is on effective law enforcement to close illegal production sites and promote the full enforcement of existing legislation, as well as improving legislation to target the growing trade in counterfeit and illegal pesticides.
Ways to Stop Counterfeiting Around the World
Hosting Workshops in the Ivory Coast
Educational workshops are an important approach to ensuring stakeholders are able to effectively tackle illegal pesticides. For example, CropLife Africa Middle East has supported anti-counterfeiting training workshops in Ivory Coast. Over 100 workshops have been hosted across the country, held in partnership with the Directorate of Crop Protection and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, aimed at members of local committees. Attendees learned about the benefits of pesticides, how pesticides are registered and certified with distributors, and stewardship practices to maximize the benefits of legal pesticides.
Training Farmers in Kenya
Last year, fall armyworm (FAW) destroyed maize crops on 50,000 hectares in Kenya. Criminals have taken advantage of farmers’ demand for crop protection solutions to deal with this voracious pest by increasing the supply of illegal products onto the market, leaving crops susceptible to damage. In its general response to FAW, CropLife Kenya has held five seminars in the worst affected areas, supported by the Kenya Markets Trust, to demonstrate effective integrated pest management techniques to effectively manage the problem. Messaging on counterfeit and illegal products has become a core element of the training to ensure farmers use approved, legitimate products.
Educating Retailers in Guatemala
To tackle counterfeiting in Guatemala, the local CropLife association (Agrequima) joined other stakeholders to work with 379 pesticide outlets in communities throughout the country. El Programa de Supervisión y Auditoria (the supervision and auditing program) started in September 2017 and lasted through that December. The goal was to train and educate pesticide retailers in the responsible use and management of crop protection products and to uphold registration standards for the retailers. Without proper licenses and registrations, these retailers can become access points for illegal and counterfeit products.