Slower Brazil pesticide approval seriously influences crop productivity
Sep. 25, 2013
The Japanese company, Ihara, located in Sorocaba, Sao Paulo State, is one of the largest agrochemicals manufacturers in Brazil. It has a 4% market share mainly due to sales of fungicides, insecticides and other items for pest control in fruits and vegetables - unlike competitors such as Syngenta, Bayer and BASF, whose sales are concentrated in products used in major agricultural commodities such as soybeans and cotton. In January, Ihara managed to get the release by the National Sanitary Agency (ANVISA) of an important product to its strategy of advancing in the Brazilian market: it allows the emergence of larger apples, with a better business value. The product release plan worked well - but seven years late. “ANVISA always said we were missing documents on our license application, but there was a lot more paper than they actually needed,” says Rodrigo Naime, responsible for the product in Ihara. “We had to go to court so the license could be released.”
The delay in obtaining the permits for new pesticides is one of the most frequent complaints of pesticide manufacturers and farmers. If the United States this analysis takes on average two years, here in Brazil it takes seven years. Three agencies are responsible for this kind of license: Department of Agriculture, the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) and ANVISA. Since ANVISA is responsible for measuring the health risks, the main criticism is towards it. The agency has 1267 license petitions, and it releases about 150 pesticides per year. The lack of staff is a major reason for this waste of time. ANVISA has 22 technicians for analysis. Ideally there should be at least 3 times more people. But the shortage of people does not explain the whole problem. “I've heard from a technician that his job is to stop the petition. They are mixing ideology with scientific analysis,"says an executive heard by Revista EXAME who prefers not to be identified. The ideology in question is against the radical technological innovations in the fields.
The slowness is not just another example of the Brazilian bureaucracy. It is also a problem to the attempt the country has to grow. This is evident with the delayed release of pesticides for soybeans, our main agricultural product. From 1993 to 2003, the productivity of soybean crops grew 27%, driven by professionalization advancing of Brazilian agriculture. In the last ten years, however, productivity was almost stagnant - growth in 2003 was only 4%. It is not reasonable to expect that productivity gains are always the same - the basis for comparison, after all, is increasing. Still, a drop so abruptly suggests a problem beyond a statistical limitation. “We could double productivity in some years - and there would not need to open new areas for cultivation,"says GlauberSilveira, president of the Soy Producers Association.
ANVISA admits limitations. DirceuBarbano, president of the agency since 2011, says that the technicians who gave ideological tone of the analysis were exonerated in November and a contest to reinforce the frame is in progress. “The releases are now faster,”says Barbano. But the industry has not had that perception yet. Syngenta waited more than two years for the release of a fungicide whose active ingredient is considered one of the greatest hopes in the fight against soybean rust, a disease that caused losses of 25 billion dollars to Brazilian producers since 2003. Definitely, ideology and bureaucracy does not rhyme with development.
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