Low Prices and Misinformation Encourage the Illegal Pesticides Market in Brazil

“In 2023, Croplife Brasil disposed of 390 tonnes of illegal pesticides. In the last 4 years, 1,114 tonnes were disposed of…”

Nilto Mendes is the manager of illegal products prevention at CropLife Brasil, with a degree in law from São Judas Tadeu University.

Nilto Mendes, manager of illegal products prevention at CropLife Brasil

AgriBrasilis – Why do farmers buy illegal pesticides?

Nilto Mendes – The main reasons are the low price compared to legal products, as well as a lack of information. To reduce the costs of agricultural production, the farmer acquires pesticides without registration, without agronomic prescription, of unknown origin and without invoice. Farmers imagine that they are getting a good deal, which is not the case.

For this reason, we work through educational campaigns that aim to make farmers aware of the risks of using illegal inputs in their farms. In fact, the campaign offers a safe and anonymous channel for reporting.

Products from smuggling do not have labels in Portuguese, which is a requirement for inputs registered and authorized in Brazil. The identification of products that are suspicious of counterfeiting, adulteration or misuse should be done in consultation with the competent authorities or the manufacturers of the legitimate products.

AgriBrasilis – What is the damage caused by the illegal pesticides market in Brazil?

Nilto Mendes – According to a survey by the National Forum Against Piracy and Illegality, Brazil lost US$ 4.2 billion in tax revenues and damages caused to the productive sector by smuggling and counterfeiting of inputs in the countryside in 2022.

The Institute for Economic and Social Development of Frontiers points out that 25% of the pesticides used in Brazil are originated from the illegal market, resulting from smuggling, counterfeiting, diversion of use, fraudulent importation and theft of legitimate products.

Illegal inputs have an unknown composition, impact the sustainability of the environment, contaminate farms and crops, have repercussions on the health of workers, farm animals, wild fauna and flora, impair agronomic efficiency and effectiveness, in addition to directly impacting public safety in rural areas.

AgriBrasilis – Is the use of illegal products growing?

Nilto Mendes – There is no way to affirm this, as there is no national public database compiling seizures of illegal pesticides in Brazil. Since 2020, CropLife Brasil has been promoting the environmentally appropriate disposal of seized illegal products. The initiative takes place through partnerships with inspection and repression agencies, such as the Ministry of Agriculture, Ibama, Internal Revenue Service, Federal Police, Federal Highway Police and State Police. If this work were not carried out, the illegal market would be bigger, as is the case with other industries in Brazil and other countries.

AgriBrasilis – When a consolidated product on the market is banned (for example, paraquat), is the emergence of an illegal market inevitable?

Nilto Mendes – Paraquat is banned in Brazil, but is still allowed in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. Regulatory asymmetry in Mercosur encourages smuggling from neighboring countries to Brazil, making this herbicide the most seized product since 2021, surpassing insecticides. The quantities seized correspond to only a portion of the products that are actually smuggled.

AgriBrasilis – What actions does CropLife Brasil take to curb the illegal pesticide market?

Nilto Mendes – Smuggled and counterfeit inputs have become a major threat to Brazilian agriculture. It is necessary to make farmers aware of the seriousness of the situation and provide channels for denunciation.

In addition to raising awareness, CropLife Brasil promotes complementary training for agents of inspection and repression agencies that work in the areas of combating the production, transportation, commercialization and use of illegal agricultural inputs.

In 2023, Croplife Brasil disposed of 390 tonnes of illegal pesticides. In the last 4 years, 1,114 tonnes were disposed of. The number of seizures more than doubled: from 301 tonnes in 2020/21 to 813 tonnes in 2022/23. This reflects the training and awareness work carried out together with public security and inspection professionals, including farmers.



Smuggling and illegal pesticides market in Brazil