Illegal herbicide trafficking continues to increase [Archives:2008/1125/Local News]

January 28 2008

By: Almigdad Dahesh Mojalli
SANA'A, Jan. 27 ) Illegal trafficking of harmful and inactive herbicides is on the rise, according to the Association of Agricultural Commodities Businessmen (AACB).

The group's leader also accused government authorities of helping to smuggle, market and distribute the often-poisonous chemicals throughout the governorates.

Yemen's many farmers use herbicides to stave off blight and increase the production of fruits, vegetables and qat.

“We've noticed a huge increase in illegal herbicide trafficking recently,” AACB president Ahmed Al-Aqel said at a three-day conference on agricultural chemicals last week, “We believe 60 percent of herbicides on the market are smuggled.”

While the government accuses the AACB of bringing poisonous herbicides into the country, Al-Aqel says the Yemeni government itself traffics the illegal substances.

“We see many government apparatuses helping to smuggle these herbicides into the country and also helping market and transmit them among the governorates,” Al-Aqel says.

Agriculture Minister Mansour Al-Hawshabi maintains that the agricultural sector's use of herbicides is mandatory to raise crops. However, many people are unaware that some herbicides include poisonous substances; hence, they overuse them, which can cause disease, particularly cancer. The most recent nationwide study found that 22,000 Yemenis annually contract cancer.

Al-Hawshabi affirmed that the ministry will complete preparations for a laboratory for herbicidal analysis and qualify a team of specialists to operate the lab. Abdulqawi Abduljalil, general manager of [Yemen's?] Plant Protection Administration, stated that last year, his agency decreased the number of herbicides circulated on the market from 1,024 to 441, and further decreased the quantity of imported herbicides from 2,600 tons to 1,100 tons.

Abduljalil noted that the Yemeni government has confiscated five tons of illegal herbicides and prevented eight trucks carrying illegal herbicides from entering the country in Al-Bouq and Haradh on the northern border of Yemen. Further, Abduljalil indicated that his agency has issued a list of 335 types of invalid herbicides, 79 of which still are being circulated on the market.

Last week's conference also featured talks by academics from Sana'a University and representatives of various administrations within the Ministry of Agriculture.

Participants agreed that smuggled herbicides damage both human health and the environment because most include poisonous chemicals.

They also discussed how to better circulate and distribute agricultural chemicals, safe alternatives in fighting blights and the role of agricultural research in restricting unsafe use of such chemicals.