Brazil registers increased demand for potassium hydroxide for agrochemicals
Feb. 10, 2021
By Leonardo Gottems, Reporter for AgroPages
The company, Katrium Indústrias Químicas, announced that in 2020, there was increased demand for caustic potash. Also known as potassium hydroxide, it is an alkali similar to lye but used in more noble applications.
The biggest consumer of potash is the agricultural sector, which uses it for the production of pesticides and foliar fertilizers. An example is glyphosate, the most widely consumed herbicide in Brazil and worldwide, which uses potash in its synthesis.
“Despite the fact that we are experiencing a phase of considerable challenges, having overcome importation issues during the most critical periods of the pandemic, the Brazilian grain harvest has been surprising overall. For the chemical industry, this is a very positive sign, since the commercialization of caustic potash, fundamental to the industrialization of agricultural pesticides, also responded to increased demand,” said João César de Freitas, who is the Commercial Director of Katrium, one of the main producers of caustic potash in South America.
João César de Freitas, Commercial Director of Katrium
According to Freitas, Katrium's raw material is potassium chloride, which needs to be imported. “The electrolysis of salt generates potash, but also chlorine, hydrogen, hydrochloric acid and sodium hypochlorite. The biggest consumer of potash is the agricultural sector, which uses it to produce pesticides and foliar fertilizers. Therefore, when the grain harvest is highlighted, we also celebrate.” he explained.
Research carried out by the Center for Advanced Studies in Applied Economics (CEPEA) at the University of São Paulo pointed out the fact that if crops did not have the protection of pesticides, soybean farmers would need to invest R$33 billion to obtain the same productivity, and the internal cost of soy would rise 22.9%. As for corn, the additional expense to reach the same level of production would reach R$25.3 billion, and the cost in the domestic market would be 13.6% higher.
Katrium was formed from the assets of the former Pan-American and acquired by the Peru-based international group, Quimpac, in 2014. “This strengthened Katrium globally and enabled access to new technologies and sources of financing abroad,” stated José Rosenberg Furer, Managing Director of Katrium.
As the Quimpac Group is a major producer of caustic soda, the largest in the Pacific region of South America, Katrium's operation was directed exclusively to potash, concentrating production in the state of Rio de Janeiro since 2016.
The Director-General pointed out that the company plans to operate in the long-term in Brazil, so it invested R$150 million in its local facilities between 2014 and 2019. “We have a large project ahead of us, which is the upgrading of an electrolytic production line, with amalgam of mercury being replaced by membrane technology, to be carried out by 2025,” he stressed.
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