José Escalante
View from the Top

Agrochemicals to Modernize the Mexican Countryside

Thu, 03/22/2018 - 10:33

Q: How do Velsimex technologies help farmers and what challenges do you face because of the nature of your products?
A: The agrochemical segment is similar to pharmaceuticals in the sense that there is a group of companies doing research to present a new drug every year. In the agrochemical market, companies present between four and five new products a year. The development of an original agrochemical product can take between US$100 million and US$500 million. Velsimex commercializes post-patent products. We also hold the exclusive distribution of a patented agrochemical enhancer. We are the largest Mexican agrochemical group.
The agrochemical enhancer we distribute is called 2X Potencior. This product allows farmers to obtain better results and at the same time helps to control weeds, insects or fungi that have proven to be resistant to other pesticides. Having this product also helps distributors to sell more, which means that we generate a win-win chain in which we all come out ahead: the distributor, the farmers and us. Our contribution also extends to education. We provide presentations on the proper handling of agrochemicals (PURA), for example. Another program, called ATOX, provides information on toxicity and what to do in case of poisoning from an agrochemical product.
Unfortunately, pesticides are demonized around the world. Today, COFEPRIS does not allow any product with teratogenic, mutagenic or carcinogenic characteristics into the market. The list of agrochemicals permitted in Mexico is similar to that in the US, Europe or Japan. However, there are some differences because we have crops, like agave, that they do not grow. Mexico grows fruits, vegetables and flowers, which are exported, meaning that we use and recommend only safe and pro-ecology products.
There are also many products that politicians have targeted with special taxes. Legislators think that the IEPS tax encourages farmers to use more products that have less toxicity, but the fact is that farmers use specific products depending on the plague that attacks their crops. The grade of toxicity of an agrochemical is not a decisive factor.
Q: What role do private companies like Velsimex play in modernizing the Mexican countryside?
A: For many years, the perception in Mexico was that crop extension was necessary to increase productivity in the agricultural sector. As a result, the government provided free assistance, including technical, which meant that agronomists traveled the country to help farmers extend their crops to more fields. However, an analysis of what happened in Europe, Israel and the US, shows that the great driver of productivity in the countryside was the private sector. Fertilizer manufacturers visited farms to analyze the soil. They were able to identify which components the soil lacked and thus recommend fertilizers accordingly. Phytosanitary product companies do the same: recommend the ideal product to combat each plague. This is how private companies like ours make a difference.
Q: What strategies should be implemented to increase crop productivity?
A: In Mexico, there are around 23 million ha of cultivable land, of which 7 million are destined for corn. Mexico is a mountainous country with a lot of desert and jungle, so increasing the number of cultivable hectares is practically impossible. Of those 7 million ha of corn only 2 million are completely modernized and use hybrid corn. In my opinion, it is a mistake that genetically-modified corn seeds are not approved for growing in Mexico because in most cases, these seeds have been modified just to resist the use of glyphosate, a nonselective herbicide that kills everything, including the crop unless it is transgenic. Around 98 percent of the corn the country imports for meals is transgenic but the corn we produce is not. If the arguments against transgenic corn were related to health issues, we would not import transgenic corn. Mexico’s population is consuming transgenic corn but its farmers cannot produce it.

Velsimex is a Mexican agrochemical company ranked fifth globally in terms of market share. Its product portfolio includes insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, bactericides, rodenticides and crop enhancers