Hebei Lansheng Biotech Co., Ltd. ShangHai Yuelian Biotech Co., Ltd.

S-metolachlor: With rapid expansion of production in China and India in 2023, what will be its prospects amid EU’s banqrcode

Jan. 12, 2024

Favorites Print
Jan. 12, 2024

- In 2023, the combined S-metolachlor production capacity of Syngenta in Europe, China and India will surpass 100,000 tons per year;

- As a key market for S-metolachlor, the US imported around 148,424 tons of S-metolachlor technical from 2021 to 2023, with a steady growth in export volume from the major exporters;

- Both multinationals and Chinese companies are demonstrating ingenuity in developing S-metolachlor formulations.

- S-metolachlor is facing bans or restrictions in France and the EU, potentially freeing up a market space of around 5,000 tons.

Recently, India’s Aarti Industries Limited announced it has entered a nine-year long-term contract for the supply of a niche agrochemical intermediate with a global agrochemical company which may offer it a revenue potential of around US$361 million. The specific product and downstream pesticides have sparked speculation in the industry. According to industry feedback, this product might be related to the product chain of ″2-Ethyl-6-methylaniline—Imine—Bis(2-dimethylaminoethyl) ether—S-metolachlor″.

Currently, major global manufacturers of S-metolachlor include Syngenta, Zhongshan Chemical, Binnong Technology, Nutrichem, Jiangshan Agrochemical, Changqing Agrochemical, and UPL. Syngenta and UPL primarily target markets in the US and Argentina, among others. Zhongshan Chemical engages in strategic supply partnerships with multinationals, with its main market includes the US, Argentina, Russia, Ukraine, and Australia. At the beginning of 2023, Zhongshan Chemical upgraded its equipment, improving the product quality through innovative process routes while further reducing costs and its S-metolachlor production capacity reached more than 20,000 tons/year. Binnong Technology excels in developing smaller yet crucial markets, demonstrating outstanding performance in both contract manufacturing for multinationals and independent development of overseas markets, such as Australia, Africa, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. 

As a leading S-metolachlor manufacturer in India, UPL maintains a consistent production output. Recent information from India strongly indicates that the latest contract entails Aarti supplying 2-Ethyl-6-methylaniline (MEA) for UPL’s S-metolachlor production. UPL’s current S-metolachlor production capacity stands at 2,000 tons per month, with an ongoing expansion plan to add 5,000 tons annually.

AgroPages has compiled the data on UPL’s S-metolachlor export in 2023, based on Indian market data. In terms of the technical exports, the top three destinations in 2023 were Argentina (5,000+ tons), the US (1,200+ tons), and South Africa (1,000+ tons), with Argentina accounting for 61% and the US 14% of the total. In terms of formulation exports, the top three destinations are the US (3,000+ tons), Russia (≈200 tons), and Australia (≈200 tons), with the US representing 82% of total. In summary, whether in formulation or technical exports, the US stands out as a pivotal export destination for UPL.

Based on US market data, S-metolachlor technical imports totaled around 148,424 tons from 2021 to 2023, primarily sourced from Syngenta and UPL. The market is currently stable, as depicted below. Syngenta has notably augmented its supply volume to the US, with expectations for a sustained upward trajectory. Conversely, UPL's export of S-metolachlor technical to the US is on a declining trend during this period.


It can be seen from the above data that S-metolachlor maintains considerable growth potential and holds a crucial position in the global market. However, the recent announcement by the EU regarding the discontinuation of S-metolachlor registration renewal signals a potential challenge. As the product faces restrictions or bans in France and the EU, what will its future development be like?

Basic information of S-metolachlor 

S-metolachlor is a chloroacetamide selective herbicide discovered by Ciba-Geigy (now Syngenta) in 1982. It is produced by removing the inactive R-isomer from metolachlor and keeping the active S-isomer. S-metolachlor retains all the advantages of metolachlor, surpassing it in safety and efficacy. Like metolachlor, S-metolachlor acts as a cell division inhibitor, primarily inhibiting cell growth by impeding the synthesis of very-long-chain fatty acids. It has a wide spectrum of applicable crops and is a major herbicide for staple crops such as corn and soybeans. S-metolachlor was launched in the US in 1997, and in the EU and China in 2005. Its compound patent expired on October 16, 2001. So far, S-metolachlor has been registered in the EU, the US, Canada, Australia and other countries and regions. In the EU alone, S-metolachlor is registered in over member countries.


Structural formula of S-metolachlor

The synthetic route for S-metolachlor is illustrated below. It involves the key intermediate, 2-Ethyl-6-methylaniline.


(Click on image to enlarge)

The global sales of acetochlor (including S-metolachlor) have consistently shown stable growth. From 2003 to 2013, the ten-year compound annual growth rate for this product was 7.97%. In 2014, its global sales slightly declined to US$585 million, primarily attributed to the gradual replacement of acetochlor by other active ingredients. In 2018, the global market size rebounded to approximately US$762 million, accompanied by a usage of 53,800 tons. The global market for S-metolachlor is predominantly concentrated in North America and Europe, with the United States emerging as the largest market at US$333 million, constituting 43.64% of the total. The European market holds the second-largest position, accounting for approximately 20% of the overall market.

New production capacity for S-metolachlor in China in 2023

In January 2023, Jiangsu Changqing Agrochemical Nantong Co., Ltd. (″Changqing Chemical″) announced a social stability risk assessment for its new project titled Expansion Project for 5,000 t/a S-metolachlor Technical (Including 4,022 t/a MEA and 1,380 t/a Hydrochloric Acid Byproduct (for Self-use) and 310 t/a Sodium Chloride.

In November 2023, Hangzhou Nutrichem Biotechnology Co., Ltd. published the environmental protection acceptance results for its 15,000 t/a S-metolachlor upgrade project on its official website. Through technological upgrades, the company will form a total production capacity of 15,000 tons of S-metolachlor per year.

On December 29, 2023, Nantong Jiangshan Agrochemical & Chemicals Co., Ltd raised funds up to RMB1.2 billion (inclusive) for projects such as novel, environmentally friendly herbicide technicals and formulations, including 10,000 t/a green and efficient chiral pesticide, S-metolachlor technical.

New S-metolachlor products introduced in 2023

In July 2023, Syngenta launched its latest residual corn herbicide Storen™ (active ingredients: bicyclopyrone, mesotrione, S-metolachlor and pyroxasulfone). The product has been registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and will be available for use in 2024, subject to state approvals. Storen is labeled for pre-emergence and post-emergence in field corn and seed corn and has partial control, or control, of more than 74 weed species, including Palmer amaranth, waterhemp, kochia, common lambsquarters, morningglory, Giant ragweed, common ragweed, and annual grasses. Its residual efficacy extends three weeks longer than leading corn herbicides.

In November 2023, ADAMA launched Apresa® in Argentina, a dispersible oil suspension herbicide with active ingredients comprising 4.2% flumioxazin + 84% S-metolachlor. With high concentration of active ingredients, the product eliminates hard-to-control grass and broadleaf weeds while providing a strong residual effect for soybeans, corn and other crops in a simple and safe application for pre-emergence uses by farmers. Apresa® uses ADAMA’s proprietary TOV oil dispersion formulation technology, which maximizes the potential of its dual active ingredients. 

In December 2023, the Portuguese multinational, Ascenza, launched the herbicide Deflexo (active ingredient: S-metolachlor) in Brazil. Deflexo is a pre-emergent herbicide that uses an emulsifiable concentrate (EC) formulation and a selective mode of action. It is recommended for controlling narrow-leaved weeds.

Technological innovations in S-metolachlor in 2023

In March 2023, after comprehensive evaluation organized by China Crop Protection Industry Association and subsequent public announcement, PILARGOLD® (45% S-metolachlor microencapsulated suspension) from PilarBio was selected as a high-quality green pesticide product. UPL plans to launch an innovative S-metolachlor microencapsulated suspension+ in the future.

In December 2023, Zhongshan Chemical’s 960g/L S-metolachlor EC product obtained the national certification for green food production materials, making it the second company in China, after Syngenta’s Dual Gold, to receive this honor. The company has successfully developed various combinations for corn fields, such as S-metolachlor + terbuthylazine, S-metolachlor + mesotrione + atrazine, and S-metolachlor + mesotrione + terbuthylazine. At the same time, Zhongshan Chemical has a pipeline of combinations for registration, such as S-metolachlor + flumioxazin + pyroxasulfone, which is mainly used for soybeans and peanuts.

Restrictions and bans of S-metolachlor in 2023

In February 2023, the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES) ordered a halt to some uses of S-metolachlor. As one of the most widely used herbicides in France, S-metolachlor is mainly applied on crops such as corn, sunflowers, soybeans, and beets. ANSES stated that residues of S-metolachlor are often detected exceeding European regulatory limits, and previously excessive residues were found in groundwater.

On January 3, 2024, the European Commission (EC) issued a formal decision: based on the EU Plant Protection Products PPP (REGULATION (EC) No 1107/2009), the active substance S-metolachlor is no longer approved for the EU register of plant protection products. The draft resolution was issued by the EU to the WTO in May 2023, and this formal resolution is largely in line with the previous draft.

Source: AgroNews


More from AgroNewsChange

Hot Topic More

Subscribe Comment


Subscribe Email: *
Mobile Number:  





Subscribe China Special Biweekly to send news related to your mailbox