Cairo – Work on this investigative report continued for a year and a half. The reporter followed an Egyptian company that imports raw materials from China, through the Egyptian Ministry of Health, to manufacture counterfeit and internationally banned agricultural pesticides.
In the first part of the investigation, the writer corresponded with a Chinese company that exports raw materials up until he was about to reach a formal deal to bring a shipment of pesticides into Egypt. The correspondence revealed methods used by the Chinese company to export the banned pesticides to Egypt and showed that the Chinese company does not have registration certificates from China for the production of these pesticides. By the end of the correspondence, this reporter received an invitation to attend the international exhibition for pesticides in China, to be held in Shanghai in October 2011.
In the second part of the investigation, the writer examined the Egyptian company in Egypt that imports the banned pesticides form this Chinese company and its connections to various ministries and official bodies. He was able to obtain papers and official documents proving that company is producing counterfeit, adulterated and internationally banned pesticides for use in agriculture. The company was working through the Egyptian Health Ministry, which issued permits to import raw materials that are used in the manufacturing of illegal or counterfeit pesticides without the knowledge of the Agriculture Ministry. The products pose a serious risk to the health of residents and to the environment.
CAIRO – The whistles blow at Egyptian ports, heralding the arrival of giant vessels carrying pesticides and raw materials from South-East Asian countries, China and India. The first leg of the sea journey has just ended. The second journey of selling the cargo to secret factories that produce counterfeit and adulterated pesticides distributed to Egyptian farmers is just starting.
This reporter followed the trail, starting with how shipments of banned pesticides leave Chinese ports.
It all started at the annual Sahara Exhibition for Agriculture and Food in the city of Nasr in October 2010, in the presence of delegations from around the world at an annual event sponsored by the Ministry of Agriculture.
The exhibition dedicated several wings for companies that trade in pesticides, including ICM, one of Egypt’s largest companies manufacturing “public heath” pesticides. The company had faced charges of illegal trading in counterfeit and banned agricultural pesticides after government inspectors raided a farm used for manufacturing large quantities of illegal and counterfeit pesticides.
But ICM continues to operate.
The name of ICM appeared in the exhibition’s guide under the “manufacturers of pesticides, agricultural fertilizers and public health pesticides and showed a link to the company’s website.
The company’s English website says the ICM is a group of companies; a marketing company, a pesticides manufacturing company and company for the rehabilitation of lands and agricultural consultation. The Group also works in the field of public health and all types pf agricultural pesticides and fertilizers as well as automated and manual spraying equipment for pesticides and seeds.
In its advertisement brochure, the company listed its foreign partners — mostly based in India and China – who provide imports of raw materials for its factories.
According a European Commission report on customs seizures, counterfeit pesticides coming from China and India, two of the world’s largest exporters of pesticides, constitute 30% and 20% of total confiscated goods.
This reporter followed the list of Indian and Chinese companies with which ICM group deals to get acquainted with the process, starting with the manufacturer of the imitated raw materials until the goods reach Egypt.
The selection fell on “Nanjing Essence Fine Chemical” Company, one of the companies listed in the ICM brochure and on its website
The factory is based in the Chinese city of Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu District. The city is among the largest in China dedicated to the manufacturing of pesticides. The company has a set of storage areas, an administrative building, a research and development division, and a factory located on an area of 16,000 square meters with an annual production capacity of 10,000 tons of pesticides. The company exports its pesticides to several countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe as well as Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Yemen, and Egypt.
This reporter send an email to the Chinese factory on 31/3/2011, pretending to represent an Egyptian company named “Al-Zahra for Industry and Trade” working in the field of manufacturing and packaging agricultural pesticides.
In the e-mail, he asked the Chinese company for names of its products of pesticides and for price offers. The following day, an email from Michael Shu, marketing employee at the Chinese company, arrived on the e-mail of “Al-Zahra for Industry and Trade”. He listed 150 types of insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides. He also asked the Egyptian company to identify the type of pesticides it is interested in.
We identified nine types of pesticides: Cypermethrin, Dicofol, Dimethoate, and Atrazine, all banned in Egypt under decision number 719 of 2005, as well as other pesticides that are authorized for use in Egypt like Malathion, Deltamethrin, Lambda-Cyhalothrin, Chlorpyriphos, and Diasinone.
The list was sent to the Chinese company, along with a request for an offer and details for payment and delivery.
The next day, the Chinese company sent an email asking us to specify the required quantities in order to give us the final price and the number of samples that they need to send.
The quantities were identified as 500 kilograms for each type and two kilograms or liters for the requested pesticides. We also asked the company to send all the production certificates and licenses for these pesticides.
After two days, the Chinese company responded in a short email saying that the samples will be sent via DHL, FEDEX or UPS under names of other chemical materials and not in the names of requested goods, to ensure they would pass through customs without any problems. This message revealed the way this Chinese company sends its pesticide products into Egypt.
We replied by saying that there is no problem in bringing in the pesticides under different names to ensure they arrive with no problem. This email earned us the trust of the Chinese company.
In another email, Mr. Shu said his company does not have registration certification at The Institute for the Control of Agrochemicals at the Ministry of Agriculture (ICAMA) in China. ICAMA is responsible for monitoring and registering the products of Chinese companies. This means that the Chinese company does not have registration certificates for its products at home, and that it is exporting them illegally as they are internationally banned.
This reporter tried to find out more details on how internationally banned pesticides are brought in through the Egyptian ports. Therefore, he asked Mr. Shu for help in how to bring the banned pesticides to Egypt. He replied by saying that the owner of Al-Zahra Company for Industry and Trade will have to visit the Chinese company as soon as possible to agree on the details. He asked a set of questions to explore the legal and trade registration status of the Al-Zahra Company and if it had ever registered pesticides in Egypt. The reporter replied that another company in Egypt which possesses registration certification will help bring in the goods.
At the end of this message, he asked Mr. Shu about the annual pesticides exhibition that is held for Chinese companies manufacturing pesticides. He also asked him for a final price for the ordered quantities of pesticides and the cost of sending samples from China to Egypt.
Two days later, Mr. Shu replied, setting the cost of sending the samples at $1,025. He added that the exhibition for pesticide manufacturers in China is held twice a year – in March in the city of Kak and in October in the city of Shanghai, near Nanjing.
And he invited us to travel to China for meetings and to attend the annual exhibition.
This reporter asked Mr. Shu to send the company’s bank account number in order to transfer the cost of the samples and the price of the shipment of pesticides in the event any agreement is reached on the order.
In the same letter, this reporter tried to pull his leg by saying that in the past, Al-Zahra Company for Industry and Trade had bought pesticides from some Egyptian companies that are importing from China using containers without labels.
Four days later, Mr. Shu sent an email with the company’s account number as follows:
Essence Fine Chemical, Limited Bank (U.K.), Theodore Street, Cardiff Riverside in Wales. The employee also attached a list of the final prices for the pesticides we ordered on the basis of FOB from Shanghai Port in China.
At the end of his message, he told us that there is no problem with changing the names of the pesticides to other chemical materials. Mr. Shu said the Chinese of how this would be done during the meeting in China on the sidelines of the annual exhibition. He refused to disclose further details.
This reporter decided to send the last message, asking for details for bringing in the pesticides into Egypt, the chemical names under which they will enter and the safest customs points for the entry of such goods.
Mr. Shu asked several questions in the hope of finding more details about our company, indicating concern about giving us further details.
This reporter replied by saying that his company will not risk its money and needed to know all details ahead of any transaction.
After four days, a message arrived from Mr. Shu informing us that the samples are ready and will be sent to Egypt via FEDEX. They will arrive three to four days from the date of the money transfer of $1.025.
At this point, this journalist decided to stop all correspondence with the Chinese company in order not to be involved in importing internationally banned pesticides to Egypt, and because the amount of requested money was not available.
This reporter then received an invitation on September 12 to attend the annual international pesticides exhibition is held in the city of Shanghai, 20-22 October 2011.
The above correspondence showed methods used by the Chinese and Egyptian companies working in the field of manufacturing banned and counterfeit pesticides to ensure the smooth arrival of these raw materials away from the control of the various Egyptian monitoring authorities.
This report was completed with the support of Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ) and under the supervision of Amr Al-Kahki.