Sustainable agriculture is not sexy but people do eat

While people demand more environmental friendly practices in agriculture and no chemical residue food to eat, not much attention and investment is put into registration and regulation of bio fertiliser.

Dr. Suparat Kositcharoenkul, Head of Fertiliser Regulation Group of Department of Agriculture shared his experiences and views on the challenges of bio fertiliser registration and regulation in Thailand and the ASEAN region. In Thailand, the Fertiliser Regulation Group oversees the quality control of fertilisers from the registration level to the market level. Their work ranges from taking care of registration procedures, production license, import and export of all types of fertilisers (chemical, bio, and organic), to drafting secondary-level law and regulations concerning fertiliser’s quality control.

Carrying out their duties is not always a smooth sailing. Dr. Suparat shared that the Group has loads of chores that are responsible by only a small number of officers.

“We have to approve over 16,000 licenses per year so with a small number of our officers we get our work done very slowly,” he said.

The workload challenge also extends to product inspection in the market. He added that “[with] only few officers to inspect bio fertilisers in the market, the quality control at the market level is hardly thorough,” considering that there are over 30,000 fertiliser shops in the country and the Group has to deal with “an increase in numbers of fake and unqualified products in the market,” he said.

To further complicate the matter, when unqualified or unregistered bio fertilisers are found sold in the market during inspection, “companies always get compromise by the court,” he said, despite the fact that this violation is punishable by 1 million baht fine and up to 7-year jail time, and in some cases, can even result to revoking of company’s production license.

When it comes to fertiliser registration and regulation in the ASEAN, Dr. Suparat gave his thoughts concerning the ASEAN’s plan to harmonise the regulation of bio fertiliser in a positive tone saying that, “It will be best to create one consensual regulation together at the ASEAN level before each ASEAN Member States (AMS) make their own regulations so that there exists ‘the ASEAN baseline’ for all AMS to refer to.”

The harmonisation of regulation could further encourage trading of bio fertiliser between the AMS countries. Dr. Suparat explained that “[since] each AMS has different criteria of registration,” this means that certain registered fertiliser from one country may not meet the criteria set by another country, thus hindering the movement of products within the region.

ASEAN Guidelines on the Regulation, Use and Trade of Biological Control Agents Given ‘ASEAN Guidelines on the Regulation, Use and Trade of Biological Control Agents’ which was developed with the support of ASEAN-German Sustainable Agrifood Systems project and endorsed by the ASEAN Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry in 2014 as an example, they are designed to provide framework to improve the implementation of BCA and to harmonise BCA regulations in ASEAN which could encourage regional trade.  The Guidelines contain information on BCA and case studies as well as recommendations for harmonising BCA regulations such as providing a set of minimum data requirement for BCA registration.

In the past years, the AMS countries have incorporated the Guidelines into their national policies and strategies in promoting sustainable agriculture practices. For instance, the Ministry of Agriculture of Indonesia implemented the Guidelines in the form of Decree No. 39 in 2015. In Vietnam, the BCA Guidelines has been included into the National Pesticide Regulation.

Bio fertilisers VS Organic fertilisers

Bio fertilisers contain living microorganisms capable of creating nutrients that are beneficial to plant and use to improve soil fertility. Organic fertilisers are derived from organic matters that contain essential nutrients for plants and are subjected to biodegradation.

By Natasha Angsakulchai, ASEAN Sustainable Agrifood Systems

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