The Illegal Trade in Chemicals

Determining the scale of illegal trade

The evaluation of the potential scale of the illegal trade in pesticides cannot rely solely on open data sources – such as UN Comtrade and FAO Stat – used in calculating national pesticide balances. Some shipping documents do not accurately reflect the contents of the shipment, the collection of trade data is far from uniform, and some countries collect and submit no data at all. In addition, reporting challenges may arise because of different categories under which the same pesticide may be reported. 7 Comparisons between the trade value –measured in currency – and the quantity traded, which is measured in weight or volume, are difficult. And trade figures of exporting countries often do not correspond to the trade figures of importing partner countries. The consideration of import data only may overlook a significant amount of smuggled pesticides. Finally, differences between financial years and calendar years complicate comparisons across countries. Comtrade data and regional trade statistics provide the basis for evaluating the volumes of registered cross-border trade, and in some cases imply the scale of illegal production of pesticides in particular countries. Specific information from national statistics departments and business association

reports, which sometimes are more accurate, can provide the basis for a cross-check with available international trade data.

The calculation of pesticide balances can reveal discrepancies in the reporting. Imports plus domestic production should equal consumption plus exports plus market residues, but a significant informal economy may keep substantial trades from registering in the national pesticide balances. In addition, several countries report on the use of active ingredients and others report on the use of prepared products. Figure 2 shows the pesticide balances for India – the fourth largest producer of pesticides in the world, and the sixth largest pesticide exporter (~US $1.8 billion per year). India also imports US $800 million in crop protection products per year. The Directorate of Plant Protection, Quarantine and Storage of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare posts national pesticide statistics on its website. The orange bars show that legal export and consumption of pesticides in India exceeds legal import and production by significant amounts, which the existing reporting system fails to identify.

Pesticides market balance in India

350000 Metric ton

Pesticides import


Pesticides production



Imported pesticides consumption Pesticides export Local pesticides consumption




Unreported pesticides

Yearly discrepancy between legal import and production and legal export and consumption










2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16



Figure 2: Pesticides market balance in India

The Illegal Trade in Chemicals


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