Mr. Q. G. POLAK
Director of Polaquimia
Editor’s note: The agricultural sector in Mexico is one of the largest in the world, and this has become an important part of the country's economy as well. Mexico owns many distinctions in agricultural production. Mexico is the largest avocado producing country in the world, the second largest producer of lime and green capsicum, the third largest producer of alfalfa and strawberry, the fourth largest producer of bacca and broccoli, and the tenth largest producer of tomatoes. Plentiful agricultural production has spawned a vibrant agrochemical market. Mr. Q. G. POLAK, Director of Polaquimia, spoke with AgroPages in an exclusive interview about the development trends and competitive situation in the agrochemical industry. Polaquimia is a subsidiary of Polak Group, one of the most important Mexican corporations in the chemical industry.
Q1: Could you tell us about the crop planting structure in Mexico?
Mexico has nearly 30 million hectares of planting area, including some 8 million hectares of corn, comprising 2.2 million hectares of hybrids, while the remaining are varieties or native seeds. The key production areas are the central parts of the country, such as Jalisco, Michoacán and Guanajuato, where we can find almost 1 million hectares of hybrids, with an average production of 10 tons per hectare; the second largest area is the southwest of Mexico with an estimated 5 million hectares, but only 0.4 to 0.5 million hectares of hybrids and production of only 5 to 8 tons per hectare.
Mexico produces close to 50% of its needs, and the remaining is imported from other countries, mainly from the United States.
Depending on the type of production, as well as the technology used, corn is selected for different applications; for example, self-consumption, industrial use (tortillas, animal feed), as well as corn in its natural state.
With reference to sugar, Mexico grows some 0.8 million hectares of sugarcane, distributed practically throughout the country, but the key areas are the southern parts of Mexico, mainly in the states of Veracruz, Chiapas and Oaxaca. The production is distributed among the 50 sugar mills.
The key challenge for this crop is productivity, which requires additional investment to increase the sugar content in the plant. Currently, the average degree of sugar from sugarcane in Mexico is 10%, which means 100kg of sugar per 1 ton of cane. Some of the best practices that were used to increase the yield were the use of new varieties, mainly those that do not show flowering; new sowing systems; and the use of products to accelerate the maturity, where it shows an additional 1% yield in production.
Q2: Could you please elaborate on your company's performance in 2017/first quarter of 2018 and its major operational highlights?
The year 2017 was a year of challenges due to fluctuations in foreign currencies, increase in raw materials, and an uncertain supply of technical pesticides, which led to increased speculation by distributors and the supply chain to the growers. In the second half of the year, unreasonable trade and pressure by formulators to sell to meet volumes led to low prices of goods and services, and a strategy to maintain the market share.
Our company's strategy was to maintain the market share, and in fact, we increased our share through better service, as well as by introducing new products in the market.
The year 2018 began with slow demand (due to the overstock of supply by the distributors).
This led to continued low prices and slow purchases up to the second quarter. The shortage of materials has affected the performance of most suppliers and has led to an increase in prices and shortage of liquidity.
Q3: The Chinese government implemented more stringent environmental regulations for the agrochemical industry, which resulted in tighter supply and raw materials scarcity. What impact do you think it will have on your company and the global agrochemical industry in the short and medium terms?
Mexico imports 40% of raw materials from China, 30% from India, and the remaining 30% from elsewhere.
The impact is more on the market rather than my company; the tighter supply and raw materials scarcity are leading to an increase in product pricing and most likely a reduction in the use of agrochemicals, resulting possibly in the use of other treatments such as organic applications and natural products for some types of crop protections. Biopesticides and organics will grow depending on the demand for crops that are mostly exported to the US, Canada and Europe.
In the past 10 years, organic agriculture has developed substantially in Mexico. The planting area has increased from 21,000 hectares to 512,000 hectares, and the annual output of organic agriculture has reached 750,000 tons.
Organic products produced in Mexico mainly include coffee, corn, sesame, tomatoes, pepper, pumpkin, cucumber, garlic, onion, eggplant, melon, mango, orange, apple, papaya, pineapple, lemon, coconut, peach, avocado, as well as a small amount of honey, milk, cream, and cheese, among others.
Organic farming is concentrated in eight states (Chiapas, Oaxaca, Queretaro, Tabasco, Sinalo, Michoacan, and Jalisco). Currently, 85% of Mexico's organic agricultural products are exported to Europe and the United States, with an export value of approximately US$600 million. The sales of organic agricultural products in the domestic market are approximately 1.17 billion pesos (1 US dollar is equivalent to 13 pesos), with an average annual increase of 10%.
Q4: Could you explain your market-changing trends; for example, the farmer pesticide-use habit, your competition situation, and new product/technology, among others?
Even though the total corn area will remain stable, some changes have been observed. The low prices of other crops in some areas of cultivation have led to the migration from corn to soybean and melons.
Climatic changes have impacted the use of pre-emergent herbicides due to the uncertainty of the rain during the normal growing season.
The official programs for corn will continue throughout this year.
Monsanto, Corteva (former Dow/DuPont) Syngenta and Bayer will continue as the key patented companies in the market.
Price wars will continue to increase in most post-patent companies, with the agro input market value being $850, and more than 40 companies competing in the market.
In sugarcane, the focus will continue to be on sugar production for human consumption and not for ethanol.
No changes are expected in terms of pesticide use; herbicides in post-emergent applications for main problems will continue, as termites continue to appear in very specific areas in southern Mexico.
The key companies for insecticides are Syngenta, FMC, and post-patent players.
Low prices and long-term payment conditions continue to exist as one of the key factors used to take decisions to select purchases.
Q5: What are the core strengths of your formulating technology, and please illustrate with some important product benefits to farmers?
For more than 70 years, Polaquimia has been a producer of active ingredients for agrochemicals, and for more than 65 years, one of the largest producers of surfactants in the region. This has led to the need to manufacture many other ingredients for the formulation of agrochemicals. Our acquired knowledge through this time has led us to not only offer high quality products, but also, we have been able to synthesize new molecules for the world market.
Further, this pool of knowledge has led us to become a large supplier of various adjuvants for the industry. We offer both standard and tailor-made formulations for most suppliers under strict quality control methods and confidential individual management.
We are very strong in herbicide and insecticide formulations. We are large producers of lipid protein adjuvants, as well as biodegradable and sustainable products. Our Ecopol and Cosmoten lines are a novelty, with superior results offering great reduction in the use of active ingredients and up to 50% savings in water usage during applications of agrochemicals or natural fertilizers.
These two lines are introduced and invented by us as natural substitutes for current emulsifiers or surfactants for formulations that substitute Tallow amine in glyphosate and other formulations for active ingredients, such as 2,4 D, Atrazine, ametrine, and Paraquat. Also, these new lines are employed in the formulation of adjuvants.
Q6: Could you please tell us about the development, planning and the future vision of your company?
Our company's vision is to differentiate ourselves from others by the type of products we offer, as well as the large degree of biodegradability and sustainability of our products over time. Adjuvants, soil remediation and other effective products will give the grower many more options to treat and protect his crops from pests and diseases.
We are also researching new molecules of products to offer to the world. We want to be a solution for the market, government and the environment.
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