Exclusive | After Pharmaceuticals, Govt Set to Launch QR Codes on Fertilizer Packs to Fight Fake Products

The Narendra Modi government is all set to replicate QR codes from pharmaceuticals to fertilizers with an aim of eliminating fake products, News18.com has learnt.

The Department of Pharmaceuticals, under the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, in November issued a gazette notification mandating a barcode or quick response (QR) code on the label of the top selling 300 brands of formulations from August 1, 2023.

The objective of the move, supported by the pharmaceutical industry, is to help identify fake or spurious drugs.

Now, imitating the move to counter the problem of fake or contaminated fertilizers leading to loss of farmers’ production and income opportunities, the government will launch barcoding in Single Super Phosphate (SSP) fertilizers.

SSP is an important indigenous fertilizer which contains three major nutrients required by plants — Phosphorus, Sulphur and Calcium — along with fractions of many micro-nutrients.

The QR codes on the packets will contain the unique product identification code, brand name, name and address of the manufacturer, batch number, date of manufacture, expiry date and manufacturing license number.

“The move is driven by Union minister of health, pharma and fertilizers Mansukh Mandaviya. He is overseeing the progress of this barcoding in the pharma sector and he suggested applying the same concept to fertilizers as well,” said a government official privy to the development.

Why SSP?

India produces more than 56 lakh tonnes of SSP every year which acts as a better substitute for DAP (Di-ammonium Phosphate) fertilizer that is heavily import-dependent.

“We have spotted some fake products in which the quantity of essential products in SSP was found much below the required percentage,” said a Fertilizer Association of India (FAI) official. Giving an instance, he said: “Often, the quantity of p2o5 is found around 4.5 per cent which should be around 14-14.5 per cent and not lesser. It will not benefit the plants and impact the income of farmer.”

Pilot project started, national-level rollout soon

In pharmaceuticals, the project is executed by the Indian Pharmaceuticals Alliance, a lobby of larger drugmakers in India. Similarly, in fertilizers, the FAI, which is the largest industry body, has been given the mandate for the execution of the project.

“In a meeting on December 12, we discussed the idea with minister Mandaviya and he was very happy to execute it. The project has already been started in pilot mode and we have begun identifying some challenges,” an official from FAI, who requested anonymity, told News18.com.

The pilot has been launched on the products manufactured by Hyderabad-based Coromandel – one of the top names in the manufacturing of fertilizers, pesticides and speciality nutrients in India.

The publicly listed firm, which clocked a total revenue of more than Rs 16,000 crore in the last financial year, is working with a vendor chosen by FAI for putting the track and trace barcoding mechanism.

“The pilot will be wrapped up by the end of March and we are likely to proceed with a national-level rollout soon,” the FAI official said, adding that one of the most common hiccups they face is the rubbing of barcodes from the pack of fertilizers due to rough handling of the products.

In pharmaceuticals, the official said, the products are handled “delicately” but in fertilizers, everything is “thrown on the ground or in the warehouses”. “The handling is very rough due to which the barcodes may get chafed and scanning may fail,” he said.

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