March 12, 2020 / 1:06 PM / 23 days ago

Brazil farm sector frets over possible China pesticide supply disruptions

BRASILIA, March 11 (Reuters) - Brazil’s pesticide and herbicides industry is worried that the new coronavirus outbreak that paralyzed Chinese factories will disrupt supplies of inputs needed for the 2020/21 harvest in Brazil, which is highly dependent on imports from China.

Last year, China supplied 38% of the pesticides imported by Brazil, according to a survey by Itaú BBA based on official foreign trade data. Glyphosate, one of the most widely used herbicides in Brazilian agriculture, was 99% supplied by China.

“China is the largest global supplier of raw materials for the production of pesticides. If there is a shortage of product for our industry, it will soon become short for the farmer,” said Julio Borges Garcia, president of the Brazilian lobby for the agricultural chemicals industry Sindiveg.

He said the market could not anticipate an outbreak such as the coronavirus and Sindiveg was waiting to see what the conditions would be this year. It would take two to three months to know whether there will be shortages, he said.

“We are assessing inventory levels, but most of them are with distributors. Now, we need to wait to find out how soon China will respond to these problems and, as a result, whether there will be a shortage or delay in the delivery of some raw materials,” he said.

The peak of Brazilian imports of pesticides occurs between May and October, so there is time for a recovery, while some competitors, such as the United States, are more vulnerable because they do their purchases now, Garcia said.

Brazilian farmers could anticipate the acquisition of inputs for the 2020/21 harvest that is planted in September, but the first purchases tend to be for fertilizers and seeds.

In the current harvest, from 2019/20, the area planted with grains increased 2.4% from the previous season to 64.8 million hectares, according to data from Conab, the Brazilian government’s food supply and crop statistics agency.

According to a survey commissioned by Sindiveg from Spark consultancy, the crop protection product market grew about 6% last year, with a turnover close to $13.7 billion.

Garcia told Reuters that some pests are increasingly resistant and, to control this, the farmer needs to use different combinations of pesticides.

“This is our main bottleneck. We need to modernize the laws for registering new products, so that a single agent can replace this combination of products that, in some cases, are already out of date”, he said. (Reporting by Nayara Figueiredo; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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