While further consolidation of the global agrochemical manufacturing sector seems on the cards for next year, Dow AgroSciences’ product pipeline is strong enough to deliver growth and justify further investment whatever the wider industry structure changes, says its UK and Ireland managing director Toni McEwen.
She was speaking at a media briefing in London last week with her colleague Eric Dereudre, the company’s commercial director for the whole of Europe. Mr Dereudre said Dow viewed European agriculture as among the most sophisticated and technologically advanced in the world, and therefore a good fit with its strongest ever pipeline with new material in the offing for cereals, oilseeds and grassland as well as fruit and rice crops.
But the cost of the “ever more stringent regulatory regime“ in Europe continues to be a challenge, not just in financial terms but also in the time it takes to get a product registered for the market. There is also a cost in defending existing products – for instance, the Kerb (propyzamide) herbicide which is recognised as essential for oilseed rape production, is only still available due to the company’s ongoing investment in registration and better stewardship.
Dow’s R&D pipeline is backed with commercial targets aiming to double the company’s turnover within five to ten years, so it is committed to introducing and supporting new and innovative crop protection products to meet the challenges of resistance and environmental stewardship, while engaging closely with farmers and their advisers, Mr Dereudre concluded.
Ms McEwen said the domestic focus would remain on three core crops – cereals, oilseeds and the area where Dow already has a major market share – grassland. The 2015 spring season had been tough for both the farmer and the crop protection industry, but the introduction of new Dow products such as Starane Hi-Load and the oilseed rape herbicide AstroKerb, plus the first full year of N-Lock had helped the business.
This autumn had seen a new crop year get off to a great start, with Dow benefiting from its blackgrass and other pernicious grassweed products for cereals, as well as continued growth in sales of Kerb and AstroKerb. The company’s grassland sector had an interesting year – despite the tough financial conditions for livestock and dairy farmers, Dow achieved record sales of its grassland products, reflecting an increasing focus on making the most of grass to support these farm businesses.
Dow AgroSciences believes its R&D pipeline is strong enough to take it into the top three global agrochemical manufacturers within the next five years, she continued. There are three active ingredients in the EU approvals process.
These are the Arylex herbicide, first seen at Cereals this year. It is a new class of chemistry offering “a new standard of broad-leaved weed control, unrivalled flexibility and a way to tackle the threat of resistance” which should be available in the coming year.
Inatreq is the brand for a class of fungicides with a new mode of action against key cereal diseases such as Septoria. It should be on the market by the end of the decade. Dow is not strong in fungicide sector, so this will be “transformational for our business and the industry,” says Ms McEwen.
The third product is an insecticide, Isoclast, also a novel form of chemistry with potential to offer an option against pest resistance to existing products, which is now within the national registration process. “And we have more actives lined up behind these three,” she adds.
• Dow AgroSciences is to relocate the headquarters of its UK and Republic of Ireland business to brand new premises in Cambridge from mid 2016. The company currently has its national HQ in Hitchin, Hertfordshire with a manufacturing plant in King’s Lynn, Norfolk.
Ms McEwen says the move will put the company “right in the agricultural and agroscience heart of East Anglia, in close proximity to a number of key communities, including agricultural and biotech science institutes, and most of the seed and crop protection companies, including the majority of our customers’ headquarters”.