The biggest danger of illegal pesticides in the UK market is through abuse of the parallel import trade, according to most of the leading agchem manufacturers.

In simple terms a parallel import is a product currently being marketed in another country but is identical to an existing UK product.

“Parallel trade is perfectly legal,” DuPont’s Tom McHale stressed.

“But people are abusing the laws.”

Until recently the imported material must have been manufactured by the same company or an associated company to the UK approval holder’s product, as well as being sufficiently similar to a UK approved product.

But a European Court of Justice ruling on a pharmaceutical product has established a parallel import can not be rejected because it was from a different manufacturer, and PSD issued a regulatory update in March to that effect.

The new ruling doesn’t, however, remove the need to prove identicality, PSD said.

The process of obtaining a parallel import is essentially a paper exercise, according to Dr McHale.

PSD checks the formulation details of both the UK and imported product, checking for material differences and there is an English label setting out the conditions of use, a licence is approved.

But problems can arise after the licence has been granted, which is much more likely if the material is repacked, he says.

“If the material is repacked what is to stop it being supplemented with material from a non-original source.”

Government controls need to be tightened, Dr McHale said.

“Either the authorities need to analyse more, or the regulations allowing parallel imports must be tightened.

For example, don’t allow repacking.

If a material is imported in its original container there would be a much reduced chance of it being illegal.”

Legal parallel imports do, however, represent a chance for growers to save money, the NFU’s Neil Kift said.

“If as a group of farmers you can find the same product cheaper in France or Germany then it is an opportunity.

“But it is important to do the same as you would in the UK and make sure you buy from a recognised source.

There is no excuse for buying illegal products.”

Visit fwi.co.uk for a Q&A on parallel imports.