By Vision reporters
“I need Furadan 5G,” I requested a dealer at Container Village. He hesitated, a bit before asking, “What are you going to use it for? “I have used other farm chemicals, but they have failed to kill the pests,” I said. “I can arrange to have it in minutes,” the dealer replied.
Furadan 5G is a farm chemical that was recalled by its manufacturers, FMC company, in 2009. However, farmers can still easily get it in Kampala shops.
Furadan 5G is a chemical under the carbofuran class. FMC recalled all their carbofuran related chemicals in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
Carbofuran is a contact and stomach poison that kills all kinds of pests that affect a wide array of crops and this made it popular with farmers.
However, researchers Edward Okot and Andrew Plumptre recently highlighted global concerns about the chemical’s effect on animals in areas where it is used.
In Uganda, according to Okot, the chemical was used either intentionally or by mistake, by farmers near wildlife reserves like Queen Elizabeth National Park to kill wild animals that strayed into the farms or even in the game parks.
According to Okot’s research, carbofuran chemicals are common in agricultural input stores near game reserves, like in Kasese town.
The use of the pesticides to kill wild animals is a huge concern since wildlife is an important aspect of the tourism industry, which is one of the leading foreign income earners for the country.
In Uganda, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industries and Fisheries (MAAIF), the only licensed carbofuran chemicals are Furan 5G and Agro-furan 5G.
Agro-furan is solely supplied by a company called General and Allied Ltd.
It is produced in Singapore, while Furan 5G is produced by United Phosphorous Limited, Mumbai India and distributed by Lipsum (U) Ltd in Uganda. When they realised that Furadan 5G was still on sale under their label in Uganda, FMC issued a statement saying the product on the Ugandan market was not genuine.
A woman buys inputs from a shop at Container Village
Dealers at Container Village said they import the chemical from Kenya. MAAIF officials blame the lack of sufficient personnel at the borders for the ease with which the chemical is imported into Uganda.
A survey by Okot and Plumptre across 35 agro-input shops in Kampala showed that 13 of the shops had carbofuran on the shelves.
Agriculture officers say Ridomil is another chemical that was banned, but remains on shop shelves. Researchers have warned that continuous spraying of Ridomil pesticides on tomatoes may lead to health complications, such as cancer, Ridomil is one of the fertilisers that stay in the fruit for long periods of time.
According to Dr. Wilberforce Tushemereire, Director of National Agricultural Research Laboratories – NARL Kawanda, Ridomil is mainly used on tomatoes to keep them fresh longer and disease-free, while on mangoes, it is used to kill flies that may be attracted by the mango while it is still on the shelf.
Tushemereire added: “Much as there is no proven association between Ridomil and cancer, we suspect that in the long run consuming these poisons can cause problems in the internal organs.
Most chemical dealers, he pointed out, are interested in making quick sales, while the farmers, who do the actual spraying, do not know the effects of the chemicals they use.
To compound matters, the dealers too may not know what they are selling or what precautions their clients should take.
However, Dr. John Mwanja, who is in charge of pesticide control in MAAIF, says he is not sure if Ridomil was banned.
“I need to crosscheck with the recommendations from the Stockholm convention, which conducts research on all agrochemicals before they are sent in the market,” he said.
Other banned agrochemicals in Uganda include the DDT used to control pests (the one to control mosquitoes is legal), Endosulphhide, which is mainly used by cotton farmers and Ambush that was popularly used to control weeds.
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Banned farm chemicals still on market