Recently, the illicit market of products for agriculture in South America started acquiring a large dimension. Despite the closures of borders and the increase in customs controls due to the pandemic, in the last year the presence of smuggled pesticides in Brazil has grown significantly. The PRF (Federal Highway Police) declared that the seizures of agrochemicals reached 90 tons only in October, compared to the 60 tons in the entire 2019. Because of contraband, from 2017 to 2019, the sum of production losses and tax evasion quadrupled its value, reaching 11.23 billion R$ (2.1 billion USD).
According to police security agents this illicit market started expanding and becoming “professional” since 2009, due to the entry of large smugglers. This growth is reflected by the numerous government authorities’ operations of the last years. In October 1,000 Liters of pesticides have been seized by the military police in Santa Terezinha di Itaipu. In December the Federal Police dismantled a gang that sold illegally imported products for agriculture, confiscating over 900 Kg of pesticides. An action coordinated by the Ministry of Agriculture lead to the arrest of 9 people and to the seizure of 9.1 tons of fake agrochemicals. (1) And there are many more examples like these.
Of course, the risks related to the spreading and usage of all these counterfeit products are plentiful and affect the entire supply chain. Brands’ reputation is threatened as fake goods, not tested and poorly effective, can be easily confused with original goods. Farmers could put in danger their crops and their own health when using unknown or banned chemicals. When not officially verified and approved, agrochemical products could also seriously damage the environment, contaminating ground water and soil. Finally, even the end customers ‘health could be affected when unknown and untested residues end up on their tables.
We understand more about the current spread of counterfeiting if we analyze the current practices used by farmers communities and regulatory authorities to verify agrochemical inputs authenticity. In fact, there are few solutions available on the market that exploit QR codes and similar technologies. However, besides being unreliable and time consuming, all these solutions do not prevent authentic packaging from being refilled and put back in secondary markets.
In order to find a definitive solution, Lonza Group decided to collaborate with Authena to develop one of the industry’s first digital, blockchain-based technologies to provide proof of authenticity, refilling protection and full traceability across the entire value chain. (2)
Authena’s technology is based on interactive Near Field Communication (NFC) tags attached directly to Lonza’s range of crop protection products. (3) With a simple tap of his smartphone, a farmer can instantly verify where the product comes from, how to use it, whether it’s been tampered with, where it sits in the supply chain, and when it expires. At the same time, the generated data gives full reassurance that products don’t remain on shelves beyond their shelf-life. Such traceability will prevent wastage, optimize the use of resources and boost customer confidence.