19 August 1997

Cheap pesticide imports need careful planning

By John Allen

ARE YOU tempted to hop across the Channel to buy some cheap Continental pesticides while the £ is strong? If you are then proceed with caution.

The Control of Pesticide Regulations 1986 mean a foreign pesticide identical to a UK formulation can only be imported if it is first approved by the Pesticide Safety Directorate.

If not, a farmer may be acting illegally, comments the PSDs Russell Wedgebury. A prosecution could lead to unlimited fines and, if there are safety concerns, a crop destruct order under the Food and Environment Act 1985.

"An individual farmer or grower, or a group of individually named applicants each completing a form, can apply for an Own Use parallel import approval under the COPR," says Mr Wedgebury. However, there have been very few requests so far, he adds.

To support the application an English translation of the foreign product label is needed. A statement that the import will be used on land in the applicants ownership or possession and will not be supplied to any other party is also needed. The procedure takes about three weeks, costs £290 and can be used for identical product from anywhere in the world.

Although many packaged pesticides escape the full rigours of the Carriage of Dangerous Goods Regulations (1996) it is important to know if any of the controls might apply before arranging an import. "In any case, due health and safety diligence is essential when transporting any quantity of pesticide," says John Seddon, technical officer with BASIS.

A vehicle should carry appropriate fire extinguishers, inert spillage absorbent material, shovel, brush and impervious container for any contaminated material or leaking pack, as well as personal protective equipment, he says.

A pesticide label giving transport and emergency information should be at hand and the load properly secured and isolated by a sealed bulkhead, secure trailer or container.

In case of products classified as marine pollutants, additional strictures apply for ferry crossings.

Eurotunnel regulations prohibit the passage of goods classified as dangerous without specific approval.

PARALLEL IMPORTS

&#8226 Strong £ means imported pesticides could cut costs.

&#8226 Farmers can buy from normal sources or import themselves.

&#8226 Imports must be identical to a UK formulation.

&#8226 English label translation needed.

Advice echoed

Advice echoed

Paul Singleton managing director of Profarma echoes PSD warnings that imports must be legal. "Although it may be entrepreneurial for farmers to parallel import pesticides made cheaper by the strength of the £ – make sure it is legal and safe as well."

He points out that his company runs 10,000 trial plots under Good Laboratory Practice standards on different sites around the country, often using programmes based on less than full label doses. In this way its advisers tailor particular formulations to mix and match with conditions and problems.

"Importing similar but not identical formulations, may give different results. In this case a farmer is on his own if there is a problem. With quality assurance sweeping through many different crops there is no point jeopardising a crop by using illegally imported pesticides," he adds.

Some suppliers are now adjusting UK prices down, while other product prices are set to rise in France but not the UK, Mr Singleton adds.

&#8226 BASIS, the body that approves spray advisers, reports that products containing epoxiconazole, fepropidin/fenpropimorph and thifensulfuron/metsulfuron-methyl have been imported.