It has been over 50 years since the development of chlorpyrifos by Dow AgroSciences, now known as Corteva Agriscience, with the product being registered in over 100 countries across the world. As a conventional broad-spectrum, high-efficiency, low-residue and relatively low-toxic organophosphorus insecticide, its advantages have been widely recognized. In the past decade, in light of the impact of the growing number of novel varieties, such as amide insecticides, neonicotinoid insecticides and pyrethroid insecticides, chlorpyrifos has ranked fourth in terms of global sales of all insecticides, highlighting its important market position.
However, studies and research have showed a certain degree of risk to human health and animals when applying the insecticide. In 2000 and 2004, the United States (US) Environmental Protection Agency banned chlorpyrifos for use in termite control in family homes, courtyards, new houses and buildings. However, the ban does not restrict its use for other purposes.
In recent years, the United Kingdom, the European Union (EU) and the US states of Hawaii and California have banned chlorpyrifos, while its future in Vietnam, Brazil and other US states is also in jeopardy. In China, chlorpyrifos has been banned for use on vegetables. In the face of stricter and tighter regulatory policies at home and abroad, how many market opportunities do manufacturers still have?
Advantages and risks of chlorpyrifos
The properties of Chlorpyrifos include contact toxicity and stomach poisoning. Due to its high volatility, it can be also used for fumigation. Chlorpyrifos provides various advantages during application, such as being usable on a wide range of crops, including rice, wheat, cotton, fruit trees, vegetables and tea trees. With a broad insecticidal effect, it can control nearly 100 types of insect pests, such as rice stem borer, rice leaf roller, wheat armyworm, leafhopper, cotton bollworm, aphid and spider mite. Due to its compatibility, it can be mixed with a variety of other agents, creating an apparent synergistic effect. It is not systemic and is suitable for application on pollution-free and high quality agricultural products.
Although it is currently banned in some areas and from being used on some crops, chlorpyrifos is irreplaceable for controlling pests of food crops, cotton, peanuts and forest fruits. For countries in Asia, South America, the Middle East and Africa, chlorpyrifos is still conventional, effective and economical.
A locust plague is currently happening worldwide, which is an opportunity for chlorpyrifos to show its strengths. Many insecticides are ineffective and cannot guarantee results after a certain period of use. Chlorpyrifos has a low risk of resistance, which is why it will be difficult to replace in the future.
Risks posed by chlorpyrifos
● The potential genotoxicity of chlorpyrifos is possible based on existing data.
● Dietary and non-dietary risk assessments cannot be performed due to lack of toxicological reference data.
● Chlorpyrifos may have adverse effects on the neurodevelopment of babies and fetal development in children.
● Exposure to high concentrations may cause respiratory paralysis or even death
Chlorpyrifos regulation overseas
1) From 1st April, 2016, the UK banned the sale, distribution and use of chlorpyrifos products that contain organophosphorus insecticide. In addition, the US, South Africa, New Zealand and Jamaica have implemented certain restrictions on the use of chlorpyrifos.
2) In January 2019, Hawaii banned chlorpyrifos, becoming the first US state to do so.
3) In May 2019, Canada re-assessed the use of chlorpyrifos and related end-products.
4) In May 2019, New York State passed an act to gradually ban chlorpyrifos from 2021.
5) In June 2019, APVMA, Australia, proposed to ban chlorpyrifos in terms of its remaining uses in homes, family gardens and some public places.
6) In August 2019, Brazil announced a two-year re-evaluation of the toxicological characteristics of chlorpyrifos beginning from December.
7) In October 2019, Thailand, under domestic and international pressure, revoked the chlorpyrifos ban, which was originally planned to take effect on 1st December.
8) On 6th February, 2020, the sale and use of chlorpyrifos were banned in California, where an agreement was reached with chlorpyrifos manufacturer Corteva Agriscience. Currently, California is looking for substitutes.
9) In January 2020, the EU issued the ban on chlorpyrifos while preparing to modify the residue levels of the two substances.
In December 2019, EU member states voted on a draft proposal to stop the ratification of chlorpyrifos. The majority of member states affirmatively voted for the regulation. Therefore, all EU member states are obliged to revoke all approvals of crop protection products containing the two active substances within one month. At the end of the grace period, relevant crop protection products will not be sold in the EU.
Corteva Agriscience will end production of chlorpyrifos by the end of 2020
Corteva Agriscience recently stated that in recent years, the declining sales of chlorpyrifos and questions about its safety have driven the company to make a decision to end production, which was done under the context of continuous and growing regulatory restrictions. Moreover, as the company’s largest chlorpyrifos market, demand in the US has already declined considerably. According to the US Geological Survey, the consumption of chlorpyrifos has decreased from roughly 13 million pounds (5,897.6 tons) in 1994 to less than 5 million pounds (2,268 tons) in 2016. In addition, the emergence of generic products has reduced the company’s market share.
In 2016, the global sales of chlorpyrifos was valued at around US$700 million. Formerly the largest manufacturer of chlorpyrifos, Corteva Agriscience produced and sold about half of global volume of the insecticide, which is one of Dow’s best-selling products. It is not clear whether Corteva Agriscience will end production of chlorpyrifos by the end of the year or whether it is willing to give up such as a huge market. Which companies can take advantage of market opportunities created by the market exit of Corteva Agriscience?
Leftover chlorpyrifos opportunities
China is the largest producer and consumer of chlorpyrifos in the world. In the 1990s, China successfully developed the chlorpyrifos technical, and due to the continuous improvement of the production process and reduction in production cost, the scale of production of chlorpyrifos expanded continuously. Chlorpyrifos can be produced via two processes, which are trichloroacetyl chloride and pyridine. More than 85% of China’s chlorpyrifos production is based on the trichloroacetyl chloride process. Compared to the first process, the pyridine process produces a higher quality product and lower emissions. The intermediates used in both processes are 4-tetrachloropyridine and ethyl chloride. At present, ethyl chloride is produced only in China, India and Denmark, while its production output in China accounts for 60% of the world's total.
According to statistics, the production capacity of chlorpyrifos technical in China has increased from 5,000 tons in 2005 to nearly 150,000 tons in 2016. In recent years, this production capacity has somewhat declined, but is still maintained at above 100,000 tons. Since 2016, chlorpyrifos production in China has been affected by the nation’s capacity-reduction initiative, raw material supply restraint and pollution control regulations. Nanjing Red Sun
, Hubei Benxing, Zhejiang Xinnong
, Lianyungang Liben
and Jiangsu Fengshan
are more capable of producing stable supplies.
In December 2016, chlorpyrifos was banned for use on vegetables in China. However, the ban does not affect its other uses. According to the China Pesticide Information Network, there are presently 1,127 chlorpyrifos technicals, single agents and mixture products registered in China that are still within their use by date, including 556 single agents and 502 mixture products. Among all insecticide varieties, only avermectin (1,651) and imidacloprid (1,362) have more registered products.
Chlorpyrifos was one of the varieties approved by the Chinese government as a substitute for highly-toxic pesticides, but there is currently not a broad-spectrum and high-efficiency insecticide that can completely replace chlorpyrifos. Some researchers have said that chlorpyrifos is not systemic, providing that the application technique and safety interval period are well regulated, ensuring that residue can be controlled effectively. In the short term, there is still a stable demand from the Chinese market.
In the international market, the banning of chlorpyrifos by the EU and California will have a certain impact on global sales. However, based on actual demand from farmers, some markets may not disappear so quickly. For example, Thailand announced a ban on glyphosate
and other products at the end of 2019, but the ban was eventually lifted because alternative products could not be found. What is certain is that the former chlorpyrifos giant announced the suspension of production. During this period, chlorpyrifos manufacturers in India and China will be able to discover other manufacturing opportunities.
Multinational companies, such as ADAMA, which has a share in the chlorpyrifos market, or companies that used to perform well in the market, such as FMC Brazil, may have one more opportunity for business success before production ends, considering that the partners of these companies would be still from China or India.
Chlorpyrifos technical supplies from China and India account for over 80% of global market supply. According to data from AgroPages, in 2019, China exported 28,900 converted tons of the product valued at $147 million. The top five export destinations were Vietnam, Brazil, Indonesia, Thailand and Pakistan, which together accounted for 50% of China’s total chlorpyrifos exports. In 2019, India exported 10,857 tons of un-converted chlorpyrifos mainly to Brazil, Iran, Turkey, Portugal and Russia. India is the only destination of China’s export of diethylthiophosphorylchloride, an important chlorpyrifos intermediate. In 2019, eight companies in India purchased the intermediate from 14 Chinese suppliers. In this global trade chain, who is likely to grasp the first opportunity to achieve prosperity?
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