Jul. 13, 2009
Indian pesticide firms are increasingly resorting to the China-sourcing route to break the monopoly of western multinationals in the growing domestic market for ‘new-generation’ crop protection chemicals.
Take, for instance, Emamectin Benzoate, a proprietary molecule, now off-patent, developed by the $11.6-billion Swiss agri-business giant, Syngenta AG.
This pesticide – used for control of lepidopteran pests (mainly bollworm and armyworm larvae) in cotton, chickpea, pigeon pea, vegetables and chillies – is being marketed for the last five years by Syngenta India Ltd under the brand name, ‘Proclaim’.
The USP of molecules such as Emamectin Benzoate is that farmers need to spray just 100 grams of the formulation (containing 5 grams of the active ingredient) for every acre, with its effect claimed to last 20-22 days.
Compare this to ‘old-generation’ formulations containing, say a combination of 50 per cent clorpirifos and 5 per cent cypermethrin. In this case, around 500 ml (five times more) has to be sprayed per acre and whose effect lasts for only 4-5 days.
The conventional anti-lepidopteran formulations sell for Rs 500-600 a litre (Rs 250-300 an acre), whereas ‘Proclaim’ retails at Rs 10,000 a kg or Rs 1,000 an acre.
Recently, a Delhi-based pesticide manufacturer, Crystal Phosphates Ltd, also sought to market Emamectin Benzoate in the country under its own ‘Missile’ brand.
While Syngenta India imported the active ingredient from its Swiss parent, the Rs 500-crore company is sourcing the same from a Chinese firm, Hebei Veyong Bio-Chemical Co Ltd.
"We will import the technical material and convert it into formulation at our facilities here. The plan is to make about 200 tonnes of formulations, of which 80-odd tonnes will be marketed under our ‘Missile’ brand. The rest will be supplied to our co-marketers, including Zuari Industries, United Phosphorus, Nagarjuna Agrichem, Cheminova, Coromandel Fertilisers and Insecticides India, who will sell under their separate brands”, said Mr Nand Kishore Aggarwal, Chairman, Crystal Phosphates.
Syngenta India had incidentally challenged the Union Agriculture Ministry’s decision, on September 26, to grant registration to Crystal Phosphates for manufacture of Emamectin Benzoate (5 per cent soluble granules) formulation based on technical imported from China. The appeal was, however, dismissed by the Delhi High Court in a judgment pronounced on July 1.
"We intend launching our product on August 17 and it will be priced 25 per cent cheaper than Proclaim,” said Mr Aggarwal. The domestic market for Emamectin Benzoate is currently reckoned in the region of 300 tonnes, which at Rs 10,000 a kg, is worth Rs 300 crore”.
Vertimec vs Abacin
Crystal Phosphates had earlier similarly sourced another molecule, Abamectin (active against mites and nematodes), from the same Chinese company. “Before we launched Abamectin under our brand, ‘Abacin’, last year, Syngenta was selling the same molecule under its ‘Vertimec’ label for Rs 8,000 a litre. We have brought this down to Rs 3,000,” Mr Aggarwal added.
Other new-generation molecules being marketed by Crystal Phosphates include Buprofezin (to combat brown plant hopper in paddy) and Imidacloprid (a seed treatment and foliar application chemical) under the ‘Tribune’ and ‘Confidence’ brands, respectively.
Both these were again sourced from Chinese firms – Nanjing Suyan Kechuang Agrochemical Company and Suzhou Worldbest Agro-Biochemical Co. Ltd.
While ‘Tribune’ is a rival label to Rallis India’s ‘Applaud’ (introduced through a collaboration with Nihon Nohyaku of Japan), ‘Confidence’ competes with Bayer India’s ‘Confidor’.
In fact, Imidacloprid, which was originally registered in 1999 by Bayer India, is today virtually a generic pesticide, with scores of local manufacturers apart from Crystal Phosphates – Nagarjuna Agrichem, Excel Crop Care, Bhagiradha Chemicals and Sudarshan Chemical Industries, among others. In the process, Imidacloprid prices have dipped from about Rs 4,000 a litre to Rs 800 a litre.
The ultimate beneficiary of all this increased competition has been the Indian farmer.
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