April 22, 2013

Agricultural Chemical Sales in Brazil Increase 14% in 2012

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

Brazilian farmers took advantage of strong commodity prices in 2012 to invest in increased use of fertilizers and agricultural chemicals in order to boost production. For Brazil as a whole, agricultural chemical sales increased 14% in 2012 to US$ 9.710 billion compared to US$ 8.488 billion in 2011.

The number one state for chemical sales in Brazil was Mato Grosso with 21.4% of the total followed by Sao Paulo at 14.7%, Parana at 11.6%, Goias at 10.2%, Rio Grande do Sul at 9.5% and Minas Gerais at 8.3%. Mato Grosso was the leading state due to the large acreage of soybeans, corn, and cotton in the state. Sao Paulo came in second because it has over half of all the sugarcane production in Brazil.

The Brazilian soybean crop received 47% of the chemical applications last year due to the need to control soybean rust. Soybean rust has become a chronic problem for Brazilian farmers since its introduction into Brazil over a decade ago. Brazilian farmers spent an estimated US$ 1.5 billion on chemical purchases to control the disease in 2012. The sugarcane crop received the second most chemical applications at 12.6% of the total followed by corn at 9.4%, and cotton at 9.2%. Permanent tree crops such as oranges and coffee received less chemical applications last year compared to the year before.

According to the National Plant Protection Association (Andef), farmers in Brazil maximized their production by increasing their efforts to control insects, diseases, and weeds. Part of the increased chemical usage was for the control of a new leaf-eating caterpillar that attacked soybean and cotton production.

The leaf-eating caterpillar is from the Helicoverpa moth, which was first found in northeastern Brazil two years ago. While the insect is new to farmers in northeastern Brazil, it is a familiar pest in other parts of the world where it is called by various names including corn earworms or cotton bollworms. In some of the newly infested areas, farmers had to apply up to six applications of insecticides to control the pest. The pest was found in 12 different Brazilian states and nationwide it cost R$ 2 billion to control, R$ 1 billion was spent on control costs in the state of Bahia alone.

In 2013, agricultural chemical sales in Brazil are expected to increase another 4% with most of the increase directed toward caterpillar control.