25 July 1997

Agrochem firms dispute saving claim

CLAIMS that farmers could save up to £500m a year with improved spraying and pest control have been vigorously disputed by the agrochemical industry.

The British Agrochemical Asso-ciation said the saving estimates, released in a new report, were excessive, as total UK pesticide sales last year amounted to only £516m.

But the Department of Environ-ment stressed the report, written for it by Risk and Policy Analysts and Entec UK, had found savings could be made through improved applications (£175m), better use of independent advisers (£164m), more reliable disease and insect thresholds and forecasting (£95m) and greater use of resistant crop varieties (£30m).

The report, Private Costs and Benefits of Pesticide Minimization, recommends that government should provide greater technical support to farmers to enable them to construct the most appropriate pesticide package for their farm.

It also recommends the development of farmer/wholesaler protocols, and better consumer education to ensure the public understood that fewer pesticides could, on occasions, lead to slightly lower crop quality.

And it wants government to examine of the possibility of redistributing set-aside to field margins and the encouragement of techniques like tunnel-spraying in the horticultural sector.

Richard Trow-Smith, BAA spokesman, said industry was already applying many of the recommendations submitted in the report, such as creating field margins and buffer zones, improving the timing and application of pesticides, and following pest spraying thresholds.

Mr Trow-Smith said the Pesticides Forum, which will discuss the report when it next meets in the autumn, was looking to establish a national benchmark for integrated crop management to ensure common standards across the industry.

The organisation LEAF, which launched its own ICM audit in April and has 680 members, is in talks with the NFU to avoid duplication and different standards over its farm assurance scheme for combinable crops. And the horticulture sector has recently launched the NFU/retailer partnership, with independent auditing, which will revolve around ICM. &#42