The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
The distribution of fake pesticides and fertilizers is likely to spiral out of control this year unless authorities take stern action to impose a law on intellectual property rights, experts say.
The Indonesian Anti-Counterfeiting Society (MIAP) and CropLife Indonesia on Monday jointly reported fake products had caused severe financial damage and harmed the reputation of local farmers.
"Fake pesticides and fertilizers have undermined farmers' productivity and at the same time caused hazards for consumers. Law enforcement is not extensive enough to prevent perpetrators from carrying out their actions," MIAP chairman Bambang Sumaryanto said.
Existing laws on counterfeiting contain severe punishments for violators. However, they are rarely enforced by the authorities to net perpetrators.
For example, Intellectual Property Rights Law No. 15/2001 carries a financial sanction of Rp 1 billion (US$106,000) and a maximum prison sentence of five years for brand counterfeiting. Meanwhile, Plant Cultivation Law No. 12/1992 carries a fine of up to Rp 250 million and a maximum five-year prison sentence.
Bambang said most violations were usually settled through civil suits rather than criminal charges as demanded by the associations. Most authorities, such as the police, are unaware these stern laws even exist.
"Unfortunately, counterfeiting cases often end in a 'peaceful' resolution between the counterfeiter and the companies being cheated," said Bambang.
According to CropLife secretary-general Midzon Johannis, around 20 percent of the 1,500 registered pesticide brands fell victim to counterfeiting last year, with an estimated loss of up to Rp 5 trillion.
In order to help reduce the number of fake pesticides, Midzon suggests agricultural mentors at the sub-district level educate farmers and discourage them from buying fake brands, which are usually cheaper than the original products.
The mentors should also teach farmers how to detect fake products, he said.
"I am afraid farmers will be lured into buying cheaper, fake products, which in the end will actually lead the farmers to far greater financial losses, as their harvests will definitely fail," he added.
Farmers who had used fake pesticides on their crops in Brastagi, North Sumatra, recently failed to export their fruits, cabbages and potatoes as their produce contained excessive amounts of pesticide residue from using the fake brands.
CropLife Indonesia executive director Sobar Praja said most farmers chose pesticides and fertilizers based on the suggestions of their friends, as well as the pesticides sellers.
"If the pesticides do not work well, farmers usually just complain to the sellers, not the producers. This makes it hard for companies to identify fake products that use their brand names," he said.
CropLife is a worldwide non-governmental organization that focuses on the protection of multinational plants, while MIAP is an association established in 2003 whose members are companies fighting against fake products in Indonesia. (ind)