16 November 2001

Court paves way for UK to import cheap pesticides

By James Garner

FARMERS have more scope to buy cheaper pesticides from the Continent following a court ruling last week that states imports no longer have to be identical to products used in the UK.

The ruling by the Court of Appeal means the Pesticide Safety Directorate can now grant licenses for products that are "broadly similar" in formulation on both sides of the Channel, though importers will still have to apply for a parallel import license.

NFU vice-president Michael Paske says: "The decision will re-move the unnecessary obstacles that have prevented farmers and growers from sourcing the most effective and best-priced products for the job."

Surprisingly, the Crop Protec-tion Association, which represents manufacturers, has also welcomed the decision, stating it reinforces a "tighter verification process" for registration of chemicals as safe to import.

Howard Hancock, of the Chemical Regulatory Services, which deals with chemical registrations world-wide, reckons the ruling is good for farmers. "The UK pesticide market is undeniably overpriced – by up to 30%."

Even so, the trade in parallel imports representing only a measly share of the £450m UK agrochemical market, he adds.

"There are all sorts of hurdles in the way, many of which need to be dismantled." Nevertheless, some cheaper products, such as Temik, could now cross the Channel. It is £1/kg cheaper in France than in the UK, where it costs £8/kg.

Andrew Seitz, of Aventis Cropscience – makers of Temik -says this is due to local costs. "It is used on a wider range of edible crops in the UK, while it is licensed for just sugar beet and flowers in France. Maintaining a larger label costs more."

Other examples include Rovral – used on brassicas – which is av-ailable for £6/litre on the Continent, but trades for up to £15/litre in the UK, says Mr Hancock.

John Evans, head of technical development at Syngenta, says Amistar – a Syngenta strobilurin – which is cheaper on the Continent would still not be imported. "It is sold as a soluble concentrate liquid in the UK, but as a wettable powder for vines abroad. It would need to be assessed in full by the PSD.

"For products that are nearly the same, the ruling makes sense, but not all products will be cheaper."

Even if cheaper chemicals are available, high license costs mean farmers will have to use importers.

Mr Hancock says this is another "stumbling block". The PSD takes far too long to grant licenses.

The PSD strongly refutes this. "In most cases we meet our 45-day deadline, irrespective of down time needed to consult other member states, or the manufacturer for more information." &#42