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Ban of 3 substances will cripple sugar industry: expert

Dr Kitti Chunhawong, president of Thailand Society of Sugarcane Technologists (TSSCT) insisted on Tuesday (November 12) that the banning of 3 agrochemical substances namely Paraquat, Chlorpyrifos and Glyphosate by the Hazardous Substance Committee, which came into effect last month, will severely affect the sugar industry.

“Currently Thailand is world’s 5th sugar producer and 2nd biggest exporter with more than 11 million rai of sugarcane plantation areas and 134 million tonnes of sugarcane produced per year,” he said. “The ban of these 3 substances, especially Paraquat, will affect the sugar production in 2020 as well as other related industries such as food processing, animal feed, ethanol manufacturing and biomass power plants.”

Kitti further explained that based on preliminary estimates, the sugarcane production will decrease 20-50 per cent if Paraquat is not used, causing 67 million tonnes of sugarcane to disappear from the market annually and costing the farmers at least Bt50 billion in income. “Biomass power plants will also lose approximately Bt7.4 billion due to the disappearance of 11 million tonnes of sugarcane leaves that are used to make biomass fuel,” he added.

Meanwhile, the sugar industry will suffer from reduced production of 6.7 million tonnes of raw sugar annually valued at Bt47 billion, while molasses production will go down by 3.3 million tonnes annually, valued at Bt10 billion. “The ethanol industry will also take a hit, with 840 million litres and Bt18 billion missing,” said Kitti.

“The government must urgently help the sugarcane farmers by supporting production factors, which include weed killers, fertilisers and harvesting machines, as the ban of Paraquat will drive the production cost up even further,” he said. “Alternately, we urge the government to reconsider the Hazardous Substance Committee’s decision to ban Paraquat, as its effect to human health is still ambiguous.”

Kitti cited the report from United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), which claims that Paraquat has no connection with cancers in humans and Parkinson’s disease, while its residue in agricultural products bears no significant toxicological effects.

Related Story: Hazardous Substance Committee agrees to ban 3 toxic pesticides

The Nation

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