Paraquat on a Path for Rebound in China
Editors Note: This article was produced by CCM — Data and Business Intelligence
China’s paraquat market has not exactly progressed smoothly over the past year. However, at CAC 2016 in Shanghai, most paraquat manufacturers were heavily promoting new formulations of the AI, a sign that the domestic market still has a chance to rebound.
Paraquat, one of the most widely used herbicides in the world, was first launched in Britain in 1962 and introduced to China in 1978. But it is highly toxic and studies have found that ingesting just 3 grams of it can cause failure of the liver, kidney and other organs, fibrosis of the lungs, and respiratory failure. There is no known antidote.
Due to the relatively high risk of accidental ingestion, China is banning aqueous solutions (AS) of paraquat China as of this July 1.
Manufacturers are now looking to fill the gap by touting new paraquat formulations like paraquat GW and paraquat SG, as was seen on the show floor at the 17th China International Agrochemical & Crop Protection Exhibition held in March 2016.
But some authorities in China’s Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) are skeptical toward new formulations and have not yet approved new registrations.
Shandong Luba Chemical Co., for example, has not received registration renewal of its 50% paraquat SG, which expired last November. However, some have kept their registrations of the new formulations, including Nanjing Redsun’s 20% paraquat GW, which does not expire until 2018.
As of April 2016, the MOA has not issued any official policy to ban the use of non-AS paraquat.
“If we’re optimistic, new paraquat formulations will help fill the gap in market share left by paraquat AS. It seems that China’s paraquat market will be likely to rebound in the future,” said Chen Zaoqun, Chief Editor of Herbicides China News.
If new formulations of paraquat are promoted smoothly in China, demand for paraquat TK is expected to regain some of its former strength. In other words, the market is not relying solely on exports because new demand will emerge in the domestic market.
“However, the price trend of paraquat TK is still not good in China in the short run,” Chen said.
Strong overseas demand for paraquat is still growing, which also can support the stable domestic market.
China exported 114,796 tonnes of paraquat TK in 2015, according to China Customs and CCM. Of this, the export volume of 42% paraquat TK reached 80,215 tonnes, up 34% year on year, accounting for 70% of the total. The export volume of 45% paraquat TK was 34,581 tonnes, up 74%.
China exported paraquat formulations to 61 countries/regions in 2015, according to China Customs. Nigeria imported the largest volume of formulations from China — 25,842 tonnes, accounting for 29% of the total. Thailand and Paraguay ranked second and third. As a whole, the top 10 export destinations imported 71,521 tonnes of paraquat formulations from China.
Paraquat Manufacturers Support Development
China’s paraquat manufacturers and customers all hope to keep paraquat alive and well in the market. Whether suspended registration of paraquat AS substitutes will be reopened in the future still remains unclear. Companies are certainly making efforts on safety production and usage.
Here are some of the paraquat products being produced:
• Nanjing Redsun’s 20% paraquat GW is one of the substitutes for paraquat AS that first obtained production approval in China. The formulation’s production is relatively simple and similar to paraquat AS. Capacity is currently 6,000 tonnes per year, and is expected to increase to 20,000 tonnes per year with the construction of two more processing devices and two automatic sub-assembly lines. “It may be hard to open up the market for paraquat GW unless paraquat AS is completely banned,” Liu Kuitao, manager of Nanjing Redsun said. “Recycling and disposing of packaging waste also increases the cost, reducing the competitive advantage of the product.”
• Shandong Luba has completed construction of 1,600 t/a 50% paraquat SG production equipment and new product will be launched in 2016.
“The use-cost of glufosinate-ammonium is 5.5 times higher than paraquat now, and diquat is 3.2 times that of paraquat,” said Zhao Yan, president of Shandong Luba. “Regarding the investment cost, glufosinate-ammonium and diquat are seven and two times that of paraquat, respectively. Paraquat still enjoys obvious market advantage for the moment,” Zhao added.
• Nanjing Gaozheng Agrochemical Co., Ltd. obtained a patent in 2014 for paraquat SG. The company is introducing an advanced spray-drying granulation technology, in which it invested $1.9 million. The technical equipment can output 1,000 tonnes paraquat WG annually, which is fully closed, automated and can produce granules with strong intensity in a cleaner way. Also, the diameter of granules can be controlled. Wang Maoqin, president of Nanjing Gaozheng disclosed that the equipment is applicable to liquid spray granulation of all pesticides besides paraquat.
Research and Technology
Paraquat SG, which poses less risk for accidental ingestion, is a better formulation than paraquat AS, according to Li Dejun, director of Shandong Pesticide Research Institute (SPRI).
SPRI enjoys a unique experience in R&D and production of paraquat SG. At present, it successfully produces dust-free paraquat SG that meets the requirements of commercialization through the technique of melt spray cooling crystallization granulation. SPRI obtained four national patents on the achievement and has applied for an international patent.
“The cost of producing paraquat SG is basically equal to that of paraquat AS, with SG having a slight advantage,” Li said. The cost breaks down to $11,177 for the production of one tonne of paraquat SG (converted into 100% AI), and to $11,622 for producing one tonne of paraquat AS (converted into 100% AI), according to Li.