Kashmir’s Pesticides of Pain

Farooq Sopori, Aijaz Ahmed and Shah Ambreen

Fake, misbranded, diluted and ineffective agro-chemicals have become a recurrent source of worry for J&K’s farmers. Despite heavy use of agro-chemicals against the routine pests, fungi and other diseases, farmers across the state, particularly in Kashmir valley,  complain of ineffective agro-chemicals.

This month, as an official testing laboratory of J&K government declares several pesticides as “misbranded” after their routine market checking, Ziraat Times looks at the whole process of sample collection, testing, infrastructure, coordination between Agriculture and Horticulture Departments, their law enforcement mechanisms and the punitive measures being taken by J&K government to safeguard farmer interests. 

In June 2019, Jammu & Kashmir government’s agro-chemical testing laboratory found several pesticides in the market “misbranded” after testing. 

Two separate official communications from the Directorate of Horticulture vide no. DHK/PPS/2019-20/44-IV/4361-73 dated 17 June 2019 (signed by Deputy Director Central), DHK/PPS/44-IV/4011-23 dated 13 June 2019 (signed by Assistant Director Horticulture Department Kashmir) addressed to field offices and law enforcement officials have declared several pesticide batches of two major pesticide companies as “misbranded”. 

Another communication from the office of the Deputy Director Law Enforcement, Kashmir vide no. DDLE/2019-20/927-54 dated 18 June 2019 quoting a report from the Central Insecticides Laboratory Faridabad has declared eleven types of agro-chemicals lifted from Kashmir’s retail markets for testing. The latter, addressed to the Law Enforcement Inspector, Srinagar, is intended to initiate action against the companies whose samples have been found misbranded.

Which brands have been found “misbranded”

According to the above-mentioned reports, several pesticides being sold in Kashmir markets have been found misbranded and their seizure has been ordered. The pesticides that have been declared as misbranded are:

IPL Ziram – 80 (Ziram 80% WP) with Batch No. DIZW/19/04/01

IPL Ziram – 80 (Ziram 80% WP) with Batch No. DIZW/19/04/04 with manufacturing date as April 2019 and expiry date as April 2021 and March 2021 respectively. The manufacturer of the mentioned pesticide is M/s India Pesticides Limited.

Marlett M – 45 (Mancozeb 75% WP) with the batch no. J18120102 manufactured as on January 2018 and expiry date as November 2020 has also been declared as misbranded.

The manufacturer of Marlett M – 45 is M/s Coromondel International (I) Ltd.As per the notification from the Law Enforcement Inspector, Srinagar, the pesticides that have been declared as misbranded by Central Insecticides Laboratory (CIL), Faridabad are:Maiden (Hexythiazox 5.45%EC) with batch number JMX19LB009, JMX18LL040 and X-Mite with the batch number JMX19LB006 manufactured and marketed by M/s Biostadt India Ltd respectively.

Incheck (Propineb 70% WP) with the batch number IC20180014, IC20180015, IC20180011 and IC20180012 and  Dolby with the batch number DL20190008 and DL20190006.
Klinzo (Captan 70% + Hexaconazole 5% WP) with the batch number KZ20180014 and KZ20180008.
Incheck, Dolby and Klinzi are being manufactured and marketed by M/s Shreeji Pesticides Pvt. Ltd.

Company response:

Ziraat Times reached out to all the above mentioned companies for their comments on the test reports. Only India Pesticide Limited (IPL) responded with an official response. 

Speaking exclusively to Ziraat Times, Brajanand Singh, DGM of India Pesticides Limited (IPL) said that their company had already “tested 3-5 samples from the same batch and the results were okay.”

Calling upon the J&K government to get the samples tested from central laboratories, Mr Singh further said, “on that ground, we will request state authority to get the samples tested from Central laboratory on priority basis to clear the doubts. It’s clearly some testing error.”

Farmer response

Farmers and agro-trade associations Ziraat Times spoke to about this matter are upset that the testing of samples was happening only after the farmers had already used those chemicals in their farms. 

“It is an absolute mockery. Horticulture and Agriculture Departments are notifying information about misbranded chemicals only after we have finished using those chemicals. Why can’t law enforcement units of these departments do their jobs properly? Why isn’t there a performance appraisal to indicate why all this is happening”, Nazeer Ahmed Bhat, a progressive farmer from Sopore told Ziraat Times.

J&K’s official response 

Meanwhile, Director Horticulture, Aijaz Ahmed Bhat told Ziraat Times that testing of pesticides was not the domain of their department, and, therefore, would not be able to comment on the matter. He further said that the test reports obtained had most likely come from the Agriculture Department’s testing laboratory and that their laboratory at Rajbagh didn’t have the requisite chemicals in stock to test the agro-chemicals.

Commenting on the IPL’s official response related to “testing error”, Deputy Director, Law Enforcement said that the company has an option to appeal for re-testing, adding that until the results are not out, that batch won’t be out for sale in the market.

Similar views were expressed by Tabassum Naaz, Agriculture Chemist at the Testing Lab at Lal Mandi.“We have trained staff here and our laboratories are well equipped. It’s one of the notified labs in the state. We standby our results and don’t accept any such claim wherein the company will come and say it’s a testing error”, she said.
Meanwhile, there is a strong feeling among farmers and farmer associations for a major overhaul of the official system of monitoring of and action against fake and diluted agro-chemicals in Kashmir. 
“Somewhere something is terribly wrong. How can fake and sub-standard chemicals come into the retail markets so easily and get officially cleared. Accountabilities need to be fixed”, said Firdous Ahmed, a high-density apple producer from Kulgam.

Questions about punitive actionsFarmers are also raising questions about punitive actions taken against those companies and their stockists in J&K who are selling fake and sub-standard agro-chemicals.Imtiyaz Ahmed Khan, a progressive apricot producer from Ganderbal believes that unless and until such companies do not get a stern message that the government is watching and that there are consequences for selling fake and sub-standard agro-chemicals things are unlikely to improve.Some farmers also feel the need to redefine the semantics and terminology used in the classification of agro-chemicals.”For a common farmer term ‘misbranded’ sounds too technical. We need to be told in clear and simple language what we need to avoid and what we can use’, says Nahida Sheikh, a housewoman who pursues kitchen gardening at her home in Rawalpora, Srinagar.

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