History Of Fumigation

The AQIS Methyl Bromide Standard –From the Malaysian Industry's Perspective

History Of Fumigation in Malaysia 
The practice of fumigation in Malaysia dates back in the late forties with foreign companies showing interests mainly in pest control. Although many of the fumigators are aware and having been taught the fundamental basics of Good Fumigation Practices (GFP), such GFP were hardly carried out in good faith and was chaotic. Only in 1953, the Hydrogen Cynide Act was enacted to monitor the usage of such toxic fumigants with Methyl Bromide incorporated in it around the year 1980.

Along with our Pesticides Act in 1974, these legislative priorities were mainly directed at regulating the safety aspects of consumers, the fumigation practitioners and the registration of fumigants used. The science and the art of application of these fumigants were never immaculately detailed in these regulations, which eventually led to fierce, unhealthy competition and price wars manipulated by the demanding markets. As long as we comply with the regulations, the prerogative to set one's standards lies with the fumigators themselves.
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Implementation of ISPM

The implementation of ISPM-15 for wood packaging materials in early 2003 was initially greeted with enthusiasm by some fumigators, who believed that the guidelines once implemented will uplift the industry and consequently, there will be some form of uniform standards. But alas, after a couple of years due to various reasons and resistance from the exporters and manufacturers, the standard guidelines fail to meet its objective. Up to the introduction of AFAS in our country or the Australian Fumigation Accreditation Scheme, the only difference in ISPM was the markings or stampings of WPMs. The standards were no different from our previous practices of FIT or fumigation in transit except for the extra work of ventilations by us. The big hue and cry from the exporters was why the "exorbitant increase" in fumigation prices when it's only the extra markings? The bone of contention from these exporters was they can accept the AFAS provided such exports to Australia are imposed; the standards for other importing countries should be maintained, i.e. AFAS for Australia bound exports and ISPM for non AFAS countries. 

While ISPM failed to address the art and methods of application, AFAS complemented both the Science and Art of fumigation and provided some hope for our industry. AFAS Guidelines were received well by our relevant authority i.e. Department of Agriculture or DOA and by the Pest Control Association Of Malaysia (PCAM) representing the accredited fumigators. It ensures uniformity and signaled to us that these regulations are meant not for those who desire to comply but rather to act against the defaulters and to safeguard the interests of the compliant parties. Take for example, say traffic rules; those who abide by the speed limit have nothing to be apprehensive or fearful of it, after all, it was meant for the speedsters! Just as the Penal Codes of one's country are enacted to protect the law abiding citizens, AFAS with its stringent bio security measures are meant to protect the fumigators who abide by AFAS. It offers us the confidence and security that those who abide and adhere to the regulations all this while shall by no means be sidelined or marginalized.

Implementation Of MAFAS 

However, despite the fact that our DOA's quarantine officers and PCAM, relentlessly pursuing the necessity of compliance, organizing roadshows throughout the country and explicitly describing the need to maintain only one standard, it was met with startling resistance from the manufacturing & export industries.

Not to be outdone, DOA in the later stages introduced regulatory guidelines called MAFAS or the Malaysia-Australia Fumigation Accreditation Scheme in 1st. April 05 whereby AFAS standard be accepted. Notices were disseminated to the parties concerned and on PQ's website detailing the list of accredited fumigators and informing the public that there shall be only One standard for all fumigation meant for QPS and for all importing countries. 

Again, the resistance came in from many quarters; especially from the manufacturers demanding the fumigators to justify our fumigation price increase of four folds and more. The umpteen years, of practicing our own standards of fumigation seems a habit difficult or impossible to break. The norm in the past which had imbedded so deeply in us had become the standard of the industry and our conscience calloused by our own ethics to survive. Our DOA should be commended for taking this initiative, commitment and their steadfastness, for had it not; there will still be 2 standards of practice in our country.

We are glad to say that overall now, the market has accepted it as part and parcel of their exports. As can be deduced from here, as service providers, however hard we may try to convince the exporters, we need the assistance from DOA and their stance, otherwise our efforts are futile. Similar checks with our regional countries with AFAS' implementation, the situation was no different with double standards of fumigation practice. They concurred wholeheartedly that MAFAS was an excellent example especially with the active enforcement coming directly and involvement from our DOA which is the proper authority on fumigation. 

Common woes of exporters & shippers: 

Time constraint: Inadequate time for fumigation to meet closing time. To them time means monetary costs and coupled by the "drastic" price increased, they lamented our exports are becoming les and less competitive in the global market. Space constraint: Unable to provide the necessary space at their yard or warehouse for GFP. This again will be additional cost to them owing to the premium they have to pay for the extra land of space. 

Technical Aspects that can be improved: 

We opined that there is only one direction for AFAS' standard to move, which is up, up and up. In view of many problems associated with QPS (Quarantine & Pre-Shipment), we foresee many importing countries will begin to realize the importance of complying with one standard of fumigation, and not leave it to the individual IPPO countries. Since IPPC endorses fumigation with Methyl Bromide and Heat treatment, we are experiencing some form of direct competition from these HT providers. 

Although AQIS accepts HT as well, we are unsure whether AQIS intends to or has any tentative standards in the pipeline similar to AFAS which HT providers need to comply or be regulated. Otherwise, the aspiration for fumigators to excel in our field may be curtailed, for the simple fact of convenience which HT enjoys at this juncture. Secondly, the negative perception of MB as an ODS or ozone depleting substance further compounded the disadvantage of using MB for QPS. Many countries especially some the EU countries and of late, Japan have insisted that only Heat treated WPMs as the acceptable standard owing to the perceived unenvironmental effects of MB. It will be worth its salt if APEC is able to develop a system of mechanism whereby MB can be neutralized or recycled. To leave it to ISPM or IPPC to implement or enforce HT standards will definitely fail to address the negative issues which had impeded AFAS and was evident in the early stages here in Malaysia. Similarly, fumigation within the ambit of ISPM will only remain a protocol, a mere procedure to follow. 

How to improve the AFAS Standards? 

  1. Continually educating the exporters of the importance and emphasizing the implications of Bio security on a country. Distribution of leaflets or pamphlets and organizing roadshows. They should be informed periodically of their roles and duties as responsible exporters
  2. Promote incentives to exporters whereby they are rewarded, encouraged or acknowledged as caring partners in AFAS. They may be given preferential clearance for a certain period of time and which should translate to cost saving incentives for them to engage and cooperate with reliable and trustworthy fumigators.
  3. If all else fails and as a last resort only, admonish them and or hold them responsible in a contributory manner. This may have some repercussions on the fumigators as they deem themselves as paymasters and fumigators ought to be solely responsible for a failed fumigation or in the event their consignments were rejected by an importing country.


On our part as accredited fumigators, the onus is on us to educate our customers and exporters by using moral persuasion to provide us proper space and the adequate time needed to perform GFP. Fumigators ought to be tactful in rejecting a fumigation job if the necessary criteria are not met. Clapping with one hand has no impact and unproductive to the parties concerned. Last but not least, we beseech your authoritative support in getting the message across to the exporters.

We are grateful to AQIS and APEC for the funds granted to us these past few years and educating us to comply with this AFAS as we envision by keeping our fingers crossed for larger grants from APEC to ensure this scheme will be a success to all.


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