Officials of the Ethiopian Agricultural Authority have granted permits to domestic companies to repack imported agrochemicals and fertilizers, for the first time. The rising cost of shipping has forced the authorities to budge on their long-held policy of not allowing private companies in the repacking business.

Nearly a dozen companies have applied for permits to repack the chemicals to various sizes after importing them in bulk, with containers. Only three of the 11 companies that filed applications for permits were granted the permits the Authority forbade until recently for fear of being hazardous to public safety.

Experts like Assefa Senbeta, a plant scientist at the Ethiopian Seed Enterprise (ESE), applauded the measure but emphasized that the farmers are worried about getting the product.

The companies that did not make it were found short of meeting the Authority’s requirement to submit environmental impact assessments, an adequately trained workforce and sufficient packaging, said Abaya Alemu, an expert at the Authority.

In business since 2019, DMW Agrochemical Manufacturing is one of the companies authorized to repack agrochemicals. Incorporated with a capital of 13 million Br, the company has imported two million litres of agrochemicals since the permission was granted. It has repacked 200,000ltrs in different sizes, from 100ml-20ltrs.

Its General Manager, Debebe Mihret, says his company partnered with those in East Africa and Europe to recycle and repackage chemicals.

Over 300 companies import various pesticides for agricultural use since the 1960s. They import any of the 1,000 registered agrochemicals varieties of 40,000tns annually. The state-owned Ethiopian Agricultural Business Corporation is the largest importer. It brought into the country two million litres of agrochemical products for 30 million dollars last year.

Although there are considered safe and effective in controlling pests and diseases, their frequent usage is accompanied by misuse, according to a study by the SM Journal of Environmental Toxicology.

“Ethiopia has been considered as having the largest accumulation of obsolete pesticides in Africa,” the Journal disclosed. “It’s estimated that there were 1,500tns of obsolete pesticides.”

Chemtex Plc has also been granted the permit after six years of waiting. It imported repacking machines from China.

“We’re pleased to get the permit after a long wait,” said Yimenu Jembere, general manager.

Chemtex imported over 50,000ltrs of agrochemicals from the US and Europe in the past year, each container costing 6,000 dollars.

“Shipping the chemicals in one container and repacking it will save us a lot of costs,” Yimenu told Fortune.

The authorities believe the saving could trickle down to the end users.

Eshetu Lemma, 50, is a farmer in Butajira, in the East Shewa Zone of the Oromia Regional State. He grows maize, wheat and vegetables on his four hectares of land. Although he prefers to buy pesticides from the local Union operating in his town, rising prices put pressure on his budget, jumping by 250 Br from 550 Br a month ago.

PUBLISHED ON Oct 15,2022 [ VOL 23 , NO 1172]

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