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Sowing Resilience: Industry Insights on Europe's Agri-input Challenges and Prospectsqrcode

Apr. 3, 2024

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Apr. 3, 2024

At the end of each year, AgroPages conducts a survey of our columnists, asking them to review the major trends in the agricultural industry over the past year and make predictions for the year ahead. Based on the responses we received from many experts for our 2023 survey, we produced this article: ‘Climate, Biologicals, Policy, Supply Chain, Agtech, AI’ - Key Words Frequently Mentioned in Year-End Interviews with 17 Industry Experts. Due to space constraints, this article is not exhaustive. Each expert response contains more valuable information, and we'd like to reorganize it and present their views in more detail.

The following interviews mainly discussed the challenges faced by the European agr-input industry in 2023, including dropping commodity and input prices, oversupply leading to high inventory levels, adverse weather conditions, and disruptions caused by the Russia-Ukraine war. For 2024, respondents predicted continued inventory and interest rate pressures, potential farmer protests, gradual profitability improvements, and trends like water scarcity, El Niño effects, logistics problems, and labor shortages in the agriculture sector.


Veranika Bursevich

R&D Department of PETERS&BURG Kft

Wojciech Babski

CEO, BU Agro Director at 

CIECH Sarzyna S.A.

Anastasia Romanovskaya

Head of Marketing and 


Kevin Price

Head of Corporate Affairs 

at Certis Belchim

In your view, what was the most impactful industry event or trend in 2023?

Veranika Bursevich, PETERS&BURG Kft: Not a secret, that EU registration system is a model for registration systems in other countries, so changes on agrichemical landscape in EU has a tramendous impacts on registration systmes and markets in other countries (Middle and Near East, Caucasian region and potentially – Turkey, Serbia, Ukraine etc.). Eliminating molecules from the market in EU will strategically lead to tramendous drop in market volumes globally. 

No new molecules were introduced to EU market in 2023. In contrast, several important chemicals were banned in EU such as s-metolachlor, asulam sodium, dimethomorph, mepanypyrim and the approvals of metiram, benthiavalicarb, clofentezine, triflusulfuron-methyl, dimoxystrobin, oxamyl, benfluralin were not renewed. Due to delays in decisions on final approval the EU Commission is proposing to prolong the approval of several molecules such as buprofezin, byflufenamid, fluazinam, fluopyram, flutolanil, lambda-cyhalothrin, benzovindiflupyr, bromuconazole, mecoprop-P, mepiquat, mepanipyrim, metsulfuron-methyl, phosphane and pyraclostrobin and pendimethalin.

However in late 2023, the European Commission renewed the approval of the active substance glyphosate in the EU for 10 years. Following Israel-Palestine conflict escalation and Bab-El-Mandeb blockade affecting the entire supply chain of raw materials and pesticides to EU, as well as several strikes denouncing government agricultural policies in Germany and France the EU Commission chief to withdraw the contested Sustainable Use Regulation (SUR) to halve pesticide use by 2030. These crucial political decision goes in contrast to previously facilitated EU’s Green Deal and Farm to Fork framework and might slow down the development of biopesticide market and trend of ecological farming worldwide.

Wojciech Babski, CIECH Sarzyna S.A.: There were a couple of strong trends which marked 2023 in Europe. First and most noticeable was a dramatic drop in prices of agricultural commodities coupled with a drop in agricultural input (fertilizers, crop protection, seeds, machinery). During previous COVID 19 pandemic years the prices for agricultural input would steadily increase and the market with supply chain experienced fierce disruption. Those events triggered farms to purchase large amounts of stock just in case. However 2023 was pretty much back to normal with large oversupply being visible throughout the supply chain. The lower demand and high supply caused a quick decline in prices. Farmers started reducing their expensive inventory, at the same time the agricultural commodity prices began to drop which deteriorated average farm profitability driving in the beginning of 2024 many farmers to the streets in protests. These trends triggered very limited purchases of agri input in 2023 and are likely to still have effect in 2024.

Second negative trend is the war in Ukraine. Many transportation routes, especially by sea, for Ukrainian grain were blocked. As a result a considerable surplus of volume from Ukraine was diverted towards west and agricultural commodities throughout Europe are driving the profitability of production down. This influenced EU farmers causing protests, especially in countries adjacent to Ukraine.

Third – many areas in the EU were affected by adverse weather conditions causing decrease in production in many countries and adding to the economic strain in farms.

Anastasia Romanovskaya, LYSTERRA LLC: The first trend that we have observed in 2023 season at the market was a decrease of price level. There was over supply of raw materials in China and India that put pressure on prices to be competitive and attractive for Customers. As a producer we also decreased prices for our finished product and it leads to the situation when our growth in volumes are much more than our growth in money.

Second trend is geopolitical situation. It changes the role of main players at the market and as to Russia at the current moment local producers are more preferable than multinational or any other foreign Companies. At the same time the market of agricultural crops became more difficult as some countries couldn't collaborate with Russia on grains, sunflower, soya beans and etc.

Third trend is more and more government control on pesticides. It's good because it's health and environment safety. We have special system that monitors rates of application and registered crops in according to pesticide certificate. Thus, if you have everything legal you will be reliable partner for farmers.

Season 2023 has already passed and we managed with all difficulties encountered on the way. We believe that our agriculture has great potential to provide with food growing population all over the world. We are full of enthusiasm and we are looking forward with optimism.

Kevin Price, Certis Belchim: The year was very much characterised by a situation of high inventories in the agri-input distribution channels, purchased in the previous year at high prices induced by major disruptions to input supplies and commodity markets resulting from the Russia/Ukraine conflict. With interest rates high, there was clearly a general reluctance to purchase further stocks, leading to depressed sales for many agri-input suppliers. 

In addition, extreme weather conditions experienced in 2023 impacted directly on product usage, though there were some positives in the market, depending on location. For example, in northern Europe, the ongoing wet conditions resulted in record sales of molluscicides, but autumn herbicides and early season fungicides were not used in any quantity. By contrast, southern Europe saw extremely hot temperatures which reduced fungicide use but the consequent increase in mite pressure in citrus and vegetables led to an extended season for the application of acaricides that continued well into December.

Certis Belchim is not heavily exposed in arable crops generally or in cereal herbicides, where applications and sales were well down. Fortunately, our risk is spread more widely but ongoing high interest rates and substantial inventories at distributor level put working capital under pressure and remain important factors in shifting their focus away from new purchases.

Looking ahead, what changes and trends in the industry should we pay attention to or look forward to in 2024?

Veranika Bursevich, PETERS&BURG Kft: Let me talk about AgTech innovations getting more and more topical in the recent years. Among the main tendencies I have to mention is farm automation, controlled environment agriculture (CEA) creating environments with fully regulated crucial parameters leading to tremendous reduction of water and micronutrients consumption comparing to traditional farms.  Blockchain technologies, agricultural robotics, Internet of Things (IoT), GIS and AI/ML & Data Science in Agriculture, drones, precision agriculture and connectivity technologies are the most topical trends according to several sources.

I would advise investors to look closer at start-ups in Agribots segment as market share is steadily increasing reaching several billions USD globally. These innovations might revolutionize our outlook on seeding and weeding, fruit picking and crop harvesting, sorting and packaging of agricultural produce in coming years.

Wojciech Babski, CIECH Sarzyna S.A.: 2024 started with mass protests across Europe with farmers unsatisfied with low commodity prices, high supply of products from Ukraine, EU agricultural policy putting additional requirements on agri production constraining EU farmers ability to compete on global markets. Agriculture related topic could become one of the focal points of the upcoming EU parliament elections. Whereas it is unlikely that European Union will change its overall direction in terms of meeting its climate goals, it is likely in our opinion that the implementation of most difficult reforms would be delayed or postponed easing the tensions among farmers.

From the economic point of view we are expecting a gradual increase in profitability of farm production thanks to more stable commodity prices, lower cost of agricultural input and lower stock of legacy, expensive products.

Seeing the high temperature fluctuation in January in Europe we are expecting continuing unstable weather conditions in 2024 with water supply issues in many countries. We predict increasing importance of issues related to water management like irrigation, but also additives allowing longer water preservation in the soil and stimulants increasing plant resistance.

Anastasia Romanovskaya, LYSTERRA LLC: We are mostly living in nowadays situation but it changes every day. Thus, if we look globally we can see important trends that will truly impact world agriculture.

First of all, it's the weather. Climate changes happen in spite of any geopolitical crisis. Many experts tell that in 2024 we will have influence of El Niño weather trend. It means that the weather will be hot and dry that is not very good for most of crops. Water is critical and limited resource at the planet so we are going to situation when we will have to produce more with fewer resources. LYSTERRA as a producers of pesticides, fertilizers and biological products will help agrarians to manage with any situation.

Secondly, it's logistic. We see that logistic becomes more and more difficult day be day. It started in COVID times and continues till now. Our sector is very sensitive to logistic because when you grow crops you can't wait. This problem leads to bigger stock that is risky as we don't know how the price will change next season.

Thirdly, agriculture has deficit of professionals. Young people don't want to study and work in our sector as it's not trendy. LYSTERRA is going to start the educational project to enhance the image of agriculture among pupils and students. Hope it will help to attract young professionals in our sector.

Fourthly, it's continuous trend of price decreasing and increasing trend of costs. As I told previously, we earn less money but at the same time our costs don't change and in some cases even increase. We want to see our people happy and satisfied, we want to care about them, so we have to sale more and more at a very competitive market that puts stress on all the sector.

And the last trend is unstable global situation. Agriculture is difficult sector by itself because we depend on many unregulated factors such as weather, precipitation, soil fertility, but we want to plan demand, financial situation, market structure and it's almost impossible in modern world. The world needs stability and friendly cooperation, the only decision is to support each other thus philosophy of our brand is "LYSTERRA means love".

Kevin Price, Certis Belchim: The new season will continue to be impacted by the high inventory factor. Prices generally have now fallen from the exceptional highs of 2022, but interest rates remain high, so the season promises to be challenging once again. Distributors still have high priced stocks in their stores and large volumes of products purchased in the autumn have not been used. In Europe we have had an open and mild winter, and crops are growing fast now. Conditions are conducive to high pest and disease pressure so we could have an early season and, if the weather allows, farmers will be able to get onto the land to protect their crops. Once the season gets going, with more stability in commodity prices, there may be more optimism and increased confidence in the market.

Click to read/download AgroPages' 'Annual Review 2023' magazine.

 Annual Review 2023

AgroPages welcomes article contribution from you, please contact Christina Xie (christina@agropages.com) for more details.

Source: AgroNews


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