Cropping

Chemical regulator ‘failing’

by
September 30, 2017

The performance of the national body which approves Australian crop protection chemicals has declined, according to the latest reports.

The performance of the national body which approves Australian crop protection chemicals has declined, according to the latest reports.

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority has acknowledged that the number of approvals declined in the June quarter.

CropLife Australia, the body representing the agricultural chemical industry, said the performance statistics highlight the ongoing ramifications of the loss of key specialist staff and structural inefficiencies.

‘‘The regulator achieved only 24 per cent of work within statutory timeframes for crop protection pesticide product registrations — this is a significant drop from the previous all-time low of 30 per cent last quarter,’’ CropLife Australia chief executive officer Matthew Cossey said.

‘‘All indicators and performance statistics in this most recent report show deeply concerning trends that suggest the situation is only going to worsen,’’ he said.

‘‘The regulator failing to meet its obligated timeframes for more than three quarters of crop protection product registration applications is plainly unacceptable.

‘‘The plant science industry and the nation’s farming sector were seeking improvement when 82 per cent of crop protection registrations were being finalised within statutory timeframes by the APVMA last year.

‘‘At 24 per cent we are now far beyond needing just the standard public sector bureaucratic response,’’ Mr Cossey said.

‘‘Australian farmers are now missing out on a significant number of important agricultural products, putting them at a massive disadvantage to their international competitors.

‘‘This will be the cause of Australian farmers losing at least hundreds of millions of dollars of possible improved productivity in the immediate future.

‘‘Despite the total number of applications submitted to the APVMA for crop protection products remaining consistent with the normal average over a couple of years, the total number of applications that are in progress and still in timeframe has been trending down since September 2016 and the backlog of applications is only increasing.

‘‘All of this does not bode well for the ongoing performance of the APVMA with urgent and significant operational improvement needed.’’

The APVMA finalised 2453 applications for new actives, products and permits in 2016-17, providing Australian farmers and veterinarians with access to more than 200 additional products bringing new chemicals, innovative crop protection and vet medicines to Australia.

Work in progress increased steadily by 50 to 80 applications per quarter over the first three quarters of 2016-17 with a sharp increase in the final June quarter.

APVMA chief executive officer Chris Parker said while data from the June quarter showed a decline in the percentage of assessments finalised within the statutory timeframes, the annual timeframe performance had improved by one percentage point in 2016-17.

‘‘When you look at the overall performance for the year we’ve held firm on timeliness with 69 per cent of the applications finalised within the statutory timeframe, up from 68 per cent in 2015-16,’’ Dr Parker said.

‘‘What the statistics don’t show is that we approved the registration of more than 350 generic agvet products in 2016-17, making the market more competitive and bringing costs down for farmers.’’

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