By ADAM IHUCHA
Horticultural farmers are pushing Tanzania to review its plant protection law and ease registration of pesticides to avoid losing the lucrative European Union market, which has stringent safety standards.
The EU has directed exporters to ensure all fresh produce meant for its market is free of harmful pesticides and meets the required maximum residual levels. The EU demands that horticultural produce should not contain more than 2 per cent of herbicide sprayed on the crop.
But farmers say most of the recommended “safe” chemicals are not available in Tanzania adding that the registration process is costly and takes too long, thanks to bureaucracy.
“Most of EU market recommended pesticides are not available in Tanzania and their registration takes four years,” said James Parsons, director of Africado, an avocado exporter.
Mr Parsons cited pyrethroids, which have been found to pose very little risk to human health and the environment, among the chemicals unregistered in Tanzania.
He said the lengthy pesticide registration process does not take into account changes in the industry, adding that whenever a chemical is phased out, farmers are often left without a replacement.
The 1997 Plant Protection Act and its 1999 Regulations guide importation, supply and use of pesticides.
A pesticide registration is done to ensure the product is safe to use, given the importing country’s own agriclimatic conditions with suitability trials typically requiring three crop cycles before a new pesticide can be approved.
The law requires an importer to pay a fee equivalent to 0.5 per cent FOB (free on board) value of the pesticide, a $150 analytical fee per sample collected, and a pre-business licence fee of $150 per year.
In addition, one is required to pay a $50 application fee, a one-off $1,000 experimental registration fee, and between $2,000 and $6,000 as a field test fee to cover expenses.
After that, the importer pays $1,000 for a five-year renewable full registration or $1,500 for a renewable two-year provisional registration fee, or $1,000 for a renewable two-year restricted registration fee.
Multiplicity of legislation
There are several pieces of legislation governing pesticides management, including the Plant Protection Act, Tropical Pesticides Research Institute Act and Plant Protect Regulations (dealing with pesticides for crops) as well as the Animal Diseases Act (for animal pesticides).
“The multiplicity of legislation implies conflicting decisions. It is high time there was a single legislation dealing with all pesticides,” said Tanzania Horticultural Association deputy chief executive Anthony Chamanga.
There are multiple institutions dealing with pesticide management without proper co-ordination, which causes overlaps, duplication of mandates and delays in decision-making.
Stakeholders have recommended that the primary responsible authority for pesticide management be specifically identified in law.
The East African Community partner states are in the process of harmonising chemicals registration. Once this is done, it will ease chemical accessibility.
“We are harmonising registration procedures and the responsible agencies within the EAC so that pesticides which are registered in one country can be used across the region” said Tanzania’s Pesticides Registrar, Dr Elikana Lekei.