May. 6, 2020
One of this year's revelations in the local market is Howler, a biological product created by an Argentine team whose samples will begin to be distributed around the world. The team was led by a group of Conicet scientists, together with the Obispo Colombres de Tucumán Experimental Station and the University of Tucumán; then Summit Agro Argentina - a subsidiary of Japan's Sumitomo Corporation Group - was responsible for global development.
"Adopting these eco-friendly products takes time, but the trend will come [to Argentina]," said the general manager of the AgriScience Department of the Sumitomo Corporation Group, Kazuma Suzuki, on a visit to the country. Suzuki referred to the creation of Howler, a product to vaccinate crops and activate the plant defense system, and explained what the company's plans are for the agricultural market. He was positive about the future of the country, which they arrived at in 2001, and announced that they have a strategic plan to concentrate resources and investments here.
Summit Agro, belonging to the Sumitomo Corporation Group, is dedicated to the research, production and marketing of plant protection products and also makes Argentina a major importer of cutting-edge products, but also an exporter of research and innovative local developments.
Did they arrive in the country at a difficult time?
Yes, Summit Agro Argentina settled here in October 2001, at a very difficult time for the country economically. But, thanks to the great effort of the team, the company continued to grow year by year. Our growth here is greater than that of the market. Agriculture is the heart of the Argentine economy and industry. So both Summit Agro Argentina and the headquarters of the Sumitomo Corporation Group have a great commitment to your economy.
How would you describe the business of Sumitomo Corporation Group?
Sumitomo Corporation was historically a trading company covering a huge range of industries: metals, infrastructure, natural resources, media, chemicals, food. But now we like to take on a creator role. We generate value and prosperity in different industries through numerous global investments. It is no longer just about trade, but also manufacturing, marketing, and so on.
What is the importance of the agricultural business within Sumitomo?
We have a long history in the agricultural business. We started in 1960 exporting Japanese products to the whole world. And today, due to the population growth and the importance of food security, agriculture is one of the key industries that we are focusing on.
How do you see the region from the AgriScience Department?
Today, the turnover of our agricultural business unit is worth US$2.4 billion. Of that total, I could say that 30% comes from our business in Latin America, so it is very important and we would like to be able to continue growing our sales in the future.
Are exclusive technological developments coming to Argentina?
We are a company that develops technology through investments or agreements with R&D companies, mainly of Japanese origin, but also, through our global presence, we are in search of new technologies such as Howler.
We focus our development on environmentally-friendly crop protection products, whether they are of chemical or biological origin and also increasingly towards the digitization of services. That is why we hope to continue providing value and concrete solutions to Argentine producers as we have been doing since the company was created in Argentina.
What are the problems Argentine producers will face?
There are problems such as the exchange rate or the recent instability. We look at it very closely from Japan. But I think we always have to look to the future and not only in the short term. Argentina has always managed to overcome difficulties. So while there are certain difficulties right now, I wouldn't worry too much in the long run. Argentina is one of the priority markets for the agricultural business.
What is happening with the biological products business?
Although I now live in Tokyo, for the past six years I have been in Europe leading our Sumitomo Agro Europe team. And there the direction towards biological solutions is very clear, especially in France, Spain and Italy. Here in America too, in countries such as Chile, Mexico or the United States, many companies are already gradually adopting biological control solutions. They use traditional chemical solutions and biological solutions. Today, our turnover in the global activity of biological solutions is $35 million. Our idea is to reach $100 million or $120 million, which would be 5% of our total sales.
Are we more "conservative" in Argentina with this type of solutions?
It is up to our colleagues to initiate or promote new solutions. But yes, adopting these eco-friendly products takes time, but the trend will come. This does not mean that we ignore chemicals. In no way do we use chemicals, but gradually we have to migrate to biological solutions.
Are there any Argentine technological contributions?
Yes. A global agreement was signed to develop a technology created by Conicet, the University of Tucumán and the Obispo Colombres de Tucumán experimental station. It is a biological technology, a vaccination product [called Howler] that was launched this year in Argentina for winter cereals and soybean cultivation. And next year samples will be distributed around the world to start development in a wide variety of crops.
In conclusion, what plans do you have for the next five years?
First, we have a strategy to prioritize eight countries: Argentina, Brazil, Russia, Ukraine, Mexico, the United States, Turkey and India. We will concentrate our resources and investments on them. Then, in regards to our agro-business, the "bio change" will be very important in many countries, including Argentina. So our goal is to have the best service and as many solutions as possible, not only in agrochemicals but also in products such as seeds, fertilizers or even technological services. That is our address.
The original Spanish version of this report is from LA NACION.
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