AgriBusiness Global sat down with Diego Taube, Managing Director, Chempro S.A., based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, following the AgriBusiness Global Trade Summit — Americas to discuss changes impacting Argentina’s agrichemical market.
AGB: Can you please describe what the past year has been like in the agchem business in Argentina? How have conditions changed, and what are your expectations for 2018?
This is a strange year.
Locally, there are important areas that are flooded. Still, the ones that are healthy have good output and healthy crops.
The most important things that are happening (affecting Argentina) are mainly in China, where the production of active ingredients and formulated products is not as smooth as it was in the past.
Hopefully, the companies that use proper technology and take care of the environment will be stronger after the different governmental groups examine them, and illegal producers will not re-open.
India conducted this environmental re-examination several years ago. The awareness of the environmental issues in China could bring a new balance between these two countries.
It is really difficult to predict what will happen in 2018 in China since the government can be very active.
AGB: How dramatically has Argentina’s improving tax environment changed the agchem marketplace?
Argentina used to have a 35% export tax on agricultural outputs.
One of the electoral promises of Eng. Mauricio Macri was that if he was elected as president, he would decrease the export duties of soybean by 5% per year, and cancel the export duties of the other cereals and crops.
Since this took place, Argentinean farmers have re-started producing wheat. Before, since the government had banned the export of wheat and its flour and derivatives, farmers switched from wheat to soy.
Since farmers have to pay less taxes, they are using more fertilizers, more modern agrichemicals, and renewing their machinery, etc. We are in a virtuous circle.
AGB: What other factors are driving Argentina’s agchem market, such as regulatory changes on formulated products?
The main changes in the agchem market are indeed linked to formulated products.
There are new regulations for which the registration holder of the formulated product is responsible including product traceability and the recovery and recycling of all plastic packaging. Brazilian law is different because it requires all the parts of the chain to be equally responsible, while here, only the registration holder is liable.
There are some other changes to come, which will bring barriers to the import of formulated products, but they are not ready yet.
On the positive side, there is a lot of investment in newer formulations, and also in mixtures for specific diseases and crops. In part, this is forced by both the lack of innovation and by the multinational companies, who are closing many R&D centers with all the consolidation they are going through.
AGB: For which AIs have you seen the biggest changes in demand?
I don’t think that there is a change of demand for one active ingredient.
However, insecticide and fungicide season is coming, and importers are nervous due to price volatility, especially because they cannot rest assured that the products will reach Argentina in time for it to be imported, formulated, packed, and distributed within the country.
AGB: What are your thoughts on issues and trends affecting the wider Argentina agchem environment?
By the beginning of the 20th century, and also in the period between the two World Wars, Argentina was considered the “barn of the world.” President Macri wants to change this concept. He wants us to become “the supermarket of the world.”
Eng. Macri always wants to add more value to the products that we produce and export, so instead of exporting crops, he supports policies to industrialize them and to export food which has higher added value.
Precision agriculture is a trend that is growing significantly, by adding more area with more technology via satellites, but also via simpler techniques like the more efficient use of fertilizers. More crops will change from the old, extensive production system to a newer one with a much more modern agronomic approach.
Argentina could re-gain access to the U.S. market for lemons. The province of Tucuman is the biggest export of this citrus in the world.
Unfortunately, the U.S. has set very high import prices to the Argentinean biodiesel (an average of 54%).
In 2013, the EU fixed anti-dumping duties of 25% on Argentinean biodiesel. Argentina took the case to the World Trade Organization and won; therefore, the EU was forced to cancel the anti-dumping duty, leaving the import duty between 4.5 and 10%.
Due to this, we can compensate for some of the quantities that were expected to be sold to the USA, and now they are shipped to Europe. Until the anti-dumping issue was fixed in 2013, the annual exports to Europe were of 1,8M tons, of which nearly half was for Spain.
Currently, Argentina is negotiating with the U.S. administration. One of the offers by our government is not to increase the quantities exported to USA, leaving them 1.5M tons, the same as in 2016.