June 30, 2016

Cost of Controlling White Flies Surging in Brazil

Farmers always have something to worry about, either the weather, pests, or diseases, but farmers in Brazil now have a new pest on their radar screen - white flies. The small white insects have been in Brazil for several years and their numbers have been increasing, but the population of the insect exploded in Brazil this past growing season pushed by hot and dry conditions that favor the proliferation of the insect. The tiny insects live on plant juices and if uncontrolled, they weaken the plants which results in reduced yields.

According to a study conducted by the Center for Advanced Studies in Applied Economics (Cepea), soybean farmers in Mato Grosso and Goias spent significantly more money in 2015/16 to control the insect than in previous seasons. Looking at insecticide purchase between November of 2015 and February of 2016, Cepea concluded that farmers in the two states increased their insecticides purchases by 37%, primarily to control white flies.

In the city of Campo Novo do Parecis in western Mato Grosso, insecticide expenses increased 32% from R$ 385 per hectare in 2014/15 to R$ 508 in 2015/16. In the city of Primavera do Leste in southeastern Mato Grosso, the insecticide cost increased 39% from R$ 391 to R$ 543 per hectare. In the city of Sorriso in central Mato Grosso, the cost increased 25% from R$ 302 to R$ 377 per hectare.

The increase in cost to control white flies was even higher in the state of Goias. In the city of Rio Verde in southeastern Goias, the expenditures for insecticides increased 51% from R$ 223 per hectare in 2014/15 to R$ 337 per hectare in 2015/16. In both states, the increased cost of insecticides was the result of the need to increase the number of application and a weaker Brazilian currency which made imported chemicals more expensive.

To put the increase cost of insecticides into economic terms, it cost the farmers in the three cities of Mato Grosso an average of 3 additional sacks of soybeans per hectare (2.6 bu/ac) just to cover the increased cost of the insecticides used to control the white flies. In Goias it cost an extra 2 sacks/ha (1.7 bu/ac).

In the three cities in Mato Grosso, white fly control consumed 32% to 42% of the entire insecticide budget. In Mato Grosso, insecticides now constitute the second highest operating cost after fertilizers. In Goias, white fly control accounted for 34% of insecticide expenditures. White flies are also being reported as an increasing problem for cotton producers in the states of Mato Grosso and Bahia.