August 23, 1996
Obsolete Pesticide Stocks in Africa
Approximately 20,000 tonnes of obsolete pesticides are stored
in Africa, often in containers that leak toxic waste into the
environment, according to a recent UN Food and Agriculture
Organization (FAO) report. FAO calls on agrochemical
companies to share in the cost of disposing of these stocks,
which is estimated to be more than US$100 million. "Obsolete"
refers to pesticides that have been banned or whose shelf
life has expired.
"Obsolete pesticide stocks are potential time-bombs,"
according to Niek van der Graaff, director of FAO's Plant
Protection Service. Drums are frequently stored in the open,
exposed to direct sun and rain, and deterioration of
containers is often accelerated by unfavourable climatic
conditions. The FAO report states that leaks, seepage and
various accidents related to pesticides are common and
widespread. In addition, most stores are in urban areas or
close to residential dwellings.
FAO states that many of these stockpiled pesticides are so
toxic that a few grams could poison thousands of people or
contaminate a large area. The report also documents stocks of
highly persistent pesticides, including DDT, dieldrin and
Because most developing countries do not have appropriate
facilities for disposing of pesticides, obsolete stocks must
be sent to industrialized countries for disposal, increasing
disposal costs substantially. A recent operation to transport
nearly 260 tonnes of obsolete pesticides from Yemen to Europe
for incineration cost between US$3,000-US$4,000 per tonne.
FAO recommends using high temperature incineration to dispose
of pesticides. According to The Pesticides Trust (UK), there
are no safe and environmentally sound hazardous waste
incineration facilities in developing countries.
International "aid" arrangements are responsible for a
significant part of the obsolete pesticide stocks in Africa,
according to The Pesticides Trust. Excessive donations,
donations that arrived too late and donations of
inappropriate products have made a major contribution to the
stockpiles. Other important factors include inaccurate
forecasting of pesticide requirements, insufficient
application capacity, ineffective distribution systems and
banning pesticides while they are still in storage. In
addition, aggressive marketing by the pesticide industry has
led to the build-up of pesticide stocks in Africa. Of
approximately US$672 million worth of pesticides imported
into African countries during 1993-94, as much as 40% might
be obsolete, according to FAO.
The Pesticides Trust stated that international pesticide
disposal projects have removed approximately 650 tonnes of
obsolete pesticides from Africa since 1991. Currently,
Morocco and Sahara contain the greatest quantity of obsolete
pesticides with over 1000 tonnes each, according to FAO.
Sudan, Tunisia and Zaire follow with 500-1000 tonnes each.
Countries with 50-500 tonnes include Benin, Cameroon,
Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Malawi,
Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Senegal, South
Africa, Togo, Upper Volta and Zambia. At least 16 countries
have not quantified obsolete pesticide stocks, including
Algeria, Angola, Central African Republic, Chad, Egypt,
Kenya, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, and Somalia.
Source: Agrow, June 28, 1996; "Unused Pesticides in
Developing Countries," FAO Press Release, June 10, 1996;
Pesticides News, June 1996.
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